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What Happened During The 1976 Chowchilla Mass Kidnapping?

The Chowchilla kidnapping was the mass abduction of 26 children from the ages 5 to 14 including their bus driver in Chowchilla, California. What happened during this horrific incident?

In 1976, three men abducted a school bus driver and 26 children. The kidnappers then buried them alive inside a box truck and tried to get  $5,000,000 in ransom.

Chowchilla Mass Kidnapping: A Parent’s Nightmare

Three masked men with firearms hijacked the Dairyland Elementary School bus operated by Ed Ray around 4 PM. on July 16, 1976. The bus was then driven into a dry riverbed and hidden in tree brush by the captors.

The children were bundled into two vans from the bus. They were compelled to hop from the bus to the vehicles to avoid leaving any tracks. Jennifer Brown Hyde, who was nine years old at the abduction, recalls what it was like inside the van.

And I felt like I was an animal going to the slaughterhouse.

Jennifer Brown Hyde, One of the Children on the Bus

The kidnappers had built makeshift jail cells inside the vehicles by adding wood paneling and painting the windows. No one was able to look in or out. There was no food, water, or restrooms available.

The kidnappers drove about for over 12 hours while the kids sweltered in the pitch-black trucks. The vans came to a halt. The kidnappers had brought them to a rock quarry in Livermore, California, some 100 miles from Chowchilla.

The kids and bus driver Ed Ray was pulled out of the van one by one and thrown into a hole. They quickly discovered they were trapped inside an old truck trailer, 12 feet underground. As the minutes and hours passed, the kids tried to remain calm. Conditions started to deteriorate after nearly 12 hours in the hole. They were running out of food as the roof began to cave in.

Ed Ray, a bus driver, and Michael Marshall, 14, alternated pulling up on the hefty manhole cover preventing the hole’s entry. Michael began the difficult work of digging to the top after they could move that. After many long hours, Michael Marshall eventually made it to the top. The previous 28 hours had been terrible. When Ed Ray and the kids arrived at the rock quarry, the workers were stunned. (Source: CBS News)

What is the Definition of Kidnapping?

Kidnapping is the unlawful seizing and carrying away of a person by force or trickery and the illegal seizure and detention of a person against his will. The main motivations for abduction are to force the victim into involuntary labor, expose him to the conduct of another criminal act against his person, or demand a ransom for his safe release. 

Kidnapping for extortion has recently become a tactic used by political revolutionaries or terrorists seeking government concessions. It is considered a severe violation in all countries, punishable by a lengthy prison sentence or death.

Kidnapping used to mean transporting someone to another country for involuntary slavery. It also referred to males’ false recruitment or coercion into military service which is also known as crimping and the shanghaiing of commerce seafarers in port cities. (Source: Britannica)

1 thought on “What Happened During The 1976 Chowchilla Mass Kidnapping?”

  1. Hali

    Péssimo detalhamento e narrativa do caso. Pouco texto e ainda conseguiu me confundir na parte do bueiro.

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