(ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky., May 21st, 2004, 11 a.m.) -- Harold Dennis, who survived the nation's worst alcohol-related highway crash and went on to play college football, will be portrayed in a movie to be filmed in Kentucky.
Filming could begin this fall in "The Phoenix," which was written by Daniel Blake Smith, a screenwriter and a University of Kentucky history professor.
Dennis, 14 at the time, survived the Carrollton bus crash in 1988 but suffered terrible scars from the fiery wreck. Twenty-seven people were killed, including 24 children, when a drunken driver's pickup truck crashed into the bus on Interstate 71 near Carrollton. The group was returning from an outing at an amusement park.
Dennis went on to graduate from North Hardin High School then joined the UK football team as a walk-on in 1994. He earned an athletic scholarship for the 1995 and 1996 seasons.
"My goals stayed intact," Dennis said. "I'm a firm believer in you play the cards you're dealt."
Dennis now lives in Lexington and is pursuing a master's degree from UK to become a physician's assistant.
Smith said he first heard Dennis' story in 1995. At the time, filming the movie would have made Dennis ineligible to play football, so the two decided to put the movie on hold.
They revived the project last fall.
"It's very inspiring," Smith said. "He was on death's door at age 14 and not only survived it but made something of himself."
The script follows Dennis' life from the time of the crash until he was a football walk-on at UK, Smith said.
The two are raising money to produce the movie, Smith said.
Dennis said they will make the film on a $1 million to $1.5 million budget.
Smith said he wants to produce the film independently and keep its production in Kentucky. He said he would like to use local actors and film portions of the movie at UK.
"It creates the authenticity," he said. "You sell it to Hollywood and who knows what they'll turn it into."