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Survivors of the Chowchilla kidnappings, where 26 school children were abducted along with their bus driver and buried alive in an underground prison, have revisited the terror of that fateful summer’s day, more than four decades on - with one describing their ordeal as being taken 'to the slaughterhouse.'
On July 15, 1976, a group of 26 children attending summer classes at Dairyland Elementary School were returning from a trip to a local swimming pool when their bus, driven by Frank Edward Ray, was blocked on the road by three armed men and a white van at 4:00pm.
Clint - Eastwood - Film - Dirty - Harry
Inspired by the iconic 1971 Clint Eastwood film Dirty Harry, the mastermind behind the plot, Frederick Woods, then 24, boarded the bus with pantyhose pulled over his head and a gun drawn, ready to pull off what remains one of the largest mass kidnappings in US history.
Dressed in identical attire and wielding sawed-off shotguns, brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, followed close behind, ordering Ray to ‘Shut up and get to the back’ of the bus.
Kidnappers - Ray - Children - Vans - School
The kidnappers loaded Ray and the children, all aged between five and 14, into two vans before abandoning the school bus.
The small farming town of Chowchilla was sent into a frenzy: twenty-six children had just vanished without a trace.
Parents - Search - Parties - Law - Enforcement
While their parents launched desperate search parties and bombarded law enforcement with frantic calls, the children of Dairyland Elementary sat in complete darkness, attempting to come to terms with the horror unfolding before them.
Hungry and petrified, the children were driven around for 11 agonizing hours. Some soiled themselves. Others clung on desperately to those around them, paralyzed by fear.
Animal - Slaughterhouse - Victim - Jennifer - Brown
‘I felt like an animal going to the slaughterhouse,’ victim Jennifer Brown Hyde, who was nine-years-old at the time, told CBS for its up-coming 48 Hours special, Live to Tell: The Chowchilla Kidnapping.
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