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THE BAY AREA QUAKE : 5:04 P.M. : A TIME WHEN LIVES CHANGED : Tales of the Quake: Death, Heroes and Luck : She's on Time for Fatal Ride

October 20, 1989|MARIA La GANGA and JUDY PASTERNAK

Ten women were regulars on the metallic blue van that shuttled each work day from Alameda to the UC San Francisco campus, leaving for the return trip about 4:30 p.m. every day.

On Tuesday, for various reasons, three women did not start the journey home.

One who did was Donna Jantina Marsden, an administrative analyst for the university's pathology department. Born 36 years ago on Christmas Day, she was described by a relative as stunningly attractive, with large hazel eyes and dark hair that hung to her waist. She and her husband, Bruce, a field engineer for IBM, had painstakingly restored a Victorian house they had bought three years before in Alameda, an island city adjacent to Oakland.

When Marsden did not show up there after the earthquake, her husband and a next-door neighbor, a nurse, started trying the local hospitals. Somewhere, they got word that one of the women in the van pool had turned up at the coroner's office. Bruce Marsden started to wonder if he had been looking for his wife in the wrong places.

About 3 or 4 a.m., he found her. He identified her body at the morgue.

Of her fellow passengers, three were at hospitals Thursday and three others were dead.

Their Dodge van had been traveling southbound on the upper deck of the Nimitz Freeway when the quake hit.

Said Dave Marsden, Donna's brother-in-law: "Five minutes more and she would have been home. They were that close."

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