Dozens pack emotional memorial 25 years after bus crash - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Dozens pack emotional memorial 25 years after Carroll County bus crash

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Martha Tennison Martha Tennison
Paul Richwalsky Paul Richwalsky
J. J. Duvall J. J. Duvall

HARDIN COUNTY, KY (WAVE) – Kentuckiana and even the nation paused to remember the deadliest drunk driving crash in our nation's history which happened in Kentuckiana 25 years ago Tuesday.

That's when a church bus was headed from King's Island back to North Hardin High School. Larry MaHoney was drunk and driving the wrong way on Interstate 71 near Carrollton. He crashed head on into the bus, which burst into flames on impact.

Dozens packed an emotional memorial of May 14, 1988 on May 14, 2013 at the North Hardin County High School.

"The community of Radcliff would never be the same," said Radcliff Mayor J. J. Duvall. He was eight years old at the time and said he remembers watching TV news coverage about the crash.

"Faces were missing from church on Sunday; school on Monday. Tragedy had struck our small town," he said while fighting back tears at Tuesday's memorial.

The minister of the church at the time of the crash said she hasn't stopped praying for the 27 lives lost.

"I make you a promise today. Until we draw our last breath, we will call your names in prayer every day," an emotional Rev. Martha Tennison, the former Pastor of Radcliff Assembly of God, said during the service.

Parents remember the nationwide attention and support, including a group of survivors from other tragedies who uniquely comforted them and offered advice.

"We had more questions than answers. The first question I asked was how do I answer the question of how many children do I have? I had two, and they gave the answer. Patty was 10 and Jean is 31," said Karolyn Nunnallee, who lost a daughter in the crash.

The memorial also celebrated the 34 who survived the horrific crash.

"I was about a month away from turning 15. I'm about a month away from turning 40 now," said survivor Joe Percefull.

Percefull remembers the good times at Kings Island that day. He also remembers the tragedy that followed on the way home.

"The crash itself is very vivid. I remember everything about the impact and the fire starting. I escaped over the seats on the left side of the bus out the back door and then I was in the hospital for about a week after," Percefull said.

He's now a teacher, and hopes the movie about the crash will teach his students and others about the dangers of drinking and driving.

"Hopefully it has an impact on the kids so the name Impact is perfect because I do hope it has an impact on people," Percefull said.

The reunions that followed the memorial service also include the prosecutor assigned to the case in 1988.

"It was the first of its kind and thank God there's never been one since then," said Paul Richwalsky, who was the Prosecutor in the case back in 1988.

He's kept a low profile away from the victims, but was happy to be reunited.

"To a lot of people and I understand, we're a bad memory because every time they saw us it was the trial so people after a while distance themselves from us and I understand why. Today is bittersweet and it's great to see how well they've done and their accomplishments," Richwalsky said.

As for the movie, producers hope they can get the movie into schools so that students can learn at a young age the dangers of drinking and driving.

A screening of the movie set for Wednesday has been sold out.

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