Two Grants Pass Football Champions Die in Bus Accident

Mar 8, 2016

Grants Pass High School has two 1948 state football championship trophies.  There’s a tragic story behind how that happened.

Victorious in the big game on Dec. 5, the team headed home from Portland while their fans prepared a homecoming rally in Grants Pass. The players passed around the shiny trophy on the bus ride home and coach Mel Ingram held it aloft. The bus stopped for gas in Roseburg, where Ingram got out to drive the  rest of the way home with his wife.  Coach Loffer stayed with the team.  

Coming down the steep, winding, two-lane road on the final pass after Sunny Valley, the bus hit the gravel shoulder and rolled over.  The gas tank exploded, blowing the back of the bus down an embankment. Two boys, Sterling Heater and Al Newman died, and 25 others were injured.  Loffer  helped survivors escape through windows smashed out with the trophy.

In Grants Pass, the rally turned into a wake at the hospital.

The trophy was recovered, so badly burned and battered that the Oregon State Athletic Association sent a second, shiny one.

The new Heater-Newman Gym honored the two boys who lost their lives in the accident.


Source: Shannon, Red. "Triumph and Tragedy: Where Heroes are Forged." Bleacher Report. Gonzaga University, 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <>.