ABDUCTED BY MASKED GUNMEN AND BURIED ALIVE IN A TRUCK TRAILER, SURVIVORS RELIVE THE HORRIFYING TIME THEY SPENT UNDERGROUND AND THEIR JOURNEY TO ESCAPE, IN “48 HOURS: LIVE TO TELL: THE CHOWCHILLA KIDNAPPING”
Hostage Jennifer Brown Hyde Says: “I Felt like I Was an Animal Going to the Slaughterhouse”
Abducted by masked gunmen and buried alive in a truck trailer underground, 26 innocent school children spent 28hours held hostage in the dark before they made a harrowing escape. This week, as their convicted captor faced a parole board, some of the survivors of that 1976 kidnapping share their emotional, heart-wrenching stories and their journey in 48 HOURS: “Live to Tell: The Chowchilla Kidnapping” to be broadcast Saturday, Oct. 12 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Anchored by David Begnaud, “Live to Tell: The Chowchilla Kidnapping” is the frightening and inspiring story of a group of kidnapped children and their bus driver who worked together to survive being buried with little food and water. Told through their eyes, the survivors share personal stories of bravery and helping each other survive the unknown. The broadcast also features rarely seen images from inside the buried truck trailer where the kids were held captive.
It was one of the largest kidnappings in U.S. history. A school bus was stopped by three armed gunmen as they headed home from the Dairyland Elementary School in the small California town of Chowchilla. The men were wearing pantyhose over their faces.
“Where their eyes were, it was like, it almost looked hollow,” recalls survivor Larry Park, just 6 years old at the time. “It was like looking at death.”
One of the gunmen jumped into the driver’s seat of the bus and took off for an unknown location. Eventually, the bus pulled off the road and into a dry riverbed. The kidnappers herded the kids from the bus and packed them into the rear of two vans with the windows blacked out. One of kidnappers with a shotgun threatened the hostages.
“Walking toward it, the barrels on that gun seems like they were getting so big that they were just going to swallow me up,” Park says.
“I felt like I was an animal going to the slaughterhouse,” says survivor Jennifer Brown Hyde, who was just 9 years old at the time.
The vans took off and drove for nearly 12 unbearable hours as the children suffered in the back without toilets, food or water. The kidnappers took them to a rock quarry, 100 miles away from Chowchilla. There, one by one, the kids were told to climb down a wooden ladder into a hole in the ground. The ladder led to an old truck trailer that had been buried 12 feet underground.
“I remember it just went dark,” says survivor Michael Marshall, then 14. “And then you just hear the material getting thrown on us…we were being buried alive.”
Marshall recalls the silence, broken by someone bursting into tears.
“The thing that made me cry was not being able to say goodbye to my mom,” Marshall says, holding back tears. “And I’m remembering the last time that I saw her and wishing I could have told her goodbye.”
48 HOURS: “Live to Tell: The Chowchilla Kidnapping” takes viewers inside the terrifying ride and features some of the hostages reliving the terrifying ordeal moment-by-moment and how their lives have unfolded since that they. They broadcast also looks at the fate of the gunmen, the last of which faced a California parole board this week.
“Live to Tell” is a short-run series from the producers of 48 HOURS delivering first-person accounts of extraordinary people who refuse to give up when facing possible death. 48 HOURS: “Live to Tell: The Chowchilla Kidnapping” is produced by Chris Young Ritzen and George Osterkamp. Mead Stone and Gary Winter are the producer-editors. Joan Adelman is the editor. Anthony Venditti is the field producer. Jordan Kinsey is the Associate Producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the series creator and executive producer.