By Alyssa T
Senior Girl Reporter
Twenty-five years ago, on the Girl Scout tour “California Dreamin’”, a group of 45 Girl Scouts and 8 adult chaperones were returning home after a trip to the Aerial Tramway on July 31st when an accident occurred. During the bus drive home, and largely due to unforeseen road conditions; the Girl Scouts dream trip suddenly and unexpectedly turned into a tragedy. Sadly, seven Girl Scouts and chaperones lost their lives that day, but the memories of lives lost will live on forever.
On August 1, 2016, local Girl Scout executives (including President and CEO Cynthia Bruenig), survivors, family members, and first responders attended the 25th Anniversary of the tragic bus crash. They came together at the Desert Regional Memorial Hospital in the Sinatra Education Center to honor the memory of the seven that were lost in the bus crash. Four survivors and the brother of one of the deceased were present at the event. The memorial started with a video in remembrance of the accident and the crash. Many speakers, including Jim Santucci, the CEO of the hospital, and Robert Moon, the Palm Springs Mayor spoke about what they remembered, the event, and how the community and hospital came together to save lives.
“That [day] we had twice the staff in our hospital in transitions,” said Doctor Frank Ercoli, a trauma surgeon who was in the emergency room that day. “It took about 5 hours to assess all the injuries and take the patients that needed to go to the operating room directly to the operating room.” It’s truly is a miracle that so many survived through their injuries and the crash.
One of the most heartwarming speakers was Stephanie Kesterson Tomlinson, a survivor of the crash. She recounted the help and experience she had gotten after the accident. “The staff here at the hospital, the community of Palm Springs, the random strangers that we would meet while we were out-everyone tried to find a way to be helpful. Everyone was so giving.” She delivered an emotional speech about the memories she had and how she went through life afterwards. Extraordinarily, she decided to work at the same hospital that she was treated in. “I felt like I was able to repay them for their help, care and kindness that they gave several years earlier.” She shared how the Girl Scouts and the regular community came together to display a spectacular representation of the Girl Scout Law. “[The community and Girl Scout community] offered us something in some way. A kind note, a free meal, a place to stay-be a sister to every Girl Scout.”
To close the event, the hospital revealed a plaque that commemorated the seven that died in the bus crash. It was placed in a beautiful patio area in the hospital surrounded by beautiful trees. The memorial and plaque dedication was a great way to remember those who died, and celebrate the success and recovery of those that survived. It was a bonding event for everyone and the event showed how much the entire community loved and remembered the lives lost on that tragic day.