Bus Crash Survivors Have Moved On, But Will Never Forget - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Bus Crash Survivors Have Moved On, But Will Never Forget

By Craig Hoffman

(RADCLIFF, Ky., May 14th, 2003, 4 p.m.) -- Fifteen years ago 67 people from Radcliff returning home from an outing at Kings Island became involved in the deadliest drunk driving crash in U.S. history. On the anniversary of the crash, our Craig Hoffman talked with one Radcliff resident who escaped the burning school bus.

The firey crash happened on a Kentucky Roadway near Carrollton on May 14th, 1988. That's the night an intoxicated Larry Mahoney, who was driving his pickup truck in the wrong direction on Interstate 71, slammed head-on into the school bus.

The impact of the crash caused the bus to burst into flames. Twenty seven people -- 24 children and three adults -- were killed, and 30 others were injured.

Larry Mahoney was sentenced to 16 years, but under state law, he was released from prison early for good behavior in 1999 after serving nine years.

Even though 15 years have gone by, for Cheryl Logsdon it seems like yesterday when the bus she and her friends were on exploded. "I can tell you that not a day has gone by that I haven't thought about the incident."

Thirteen years old at the time, Cheryl was five seats from the back of the bus when Mahoney changed their lives forever. Two friends sitting next to her died. And so did John Pearman, the driver of the church bus. He was Cheryl's uncle, and she loved him dearly.

"The reports from I guess the investigators of the crash at the scene said that he grabbed a fire extinguisher, so he was not knocked out, he was aware of the situation." Cheryl says she can't imagine what her uncle must have been thinking during the final moments of his life.

The 27 victims trapped inside either burned to death or died from smoke inhalation. Many of those who died were once students in North Hardin High School teacher Shelia Wilkinson's math classes.

Every year, Wilkinson reminds students and faculty about that fateful day she'll never forget. "Even at the point when school started and we were in the classroom, there were empty chairs all throughout the room, and we knew those people who had been on the bus -- we weren't sure how severe their injuries were or anything like that. So that was really, really difficult."

Even more difficult for survivors is knowing that 15 years later something like this can happen again.

Cheryl Logsdon hopes people remember the consequences of drinking and driving. "And I just hope that everyone else can remember -- not so much about the ones who have died -- but to remember not to drink and drive -- you may be the next victim."

Online Reporter: Craig Hoffman

Online Producer: Michael Dever