Survivors remember Carrollton bus crash victims 30 years later

Victims of the Carrollton bus crash. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Victims of the Carrollton bus crash. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

RADCLIFF, KY (WAVE) - Monday marks thirty years from what some claim to be the deadliest drunk driving crash in US history.

Three decades ago, a drunk driver hit a church bus head-on in Carrollton, killing almost 30 people, many of whom were children.

Survivors met up Saturday for an emotional reunion at North Hardin High School in Radcliff, Kentucky, the town many of them once lived in.

They were greeted by a choir of current students who sang a song with a message that those who lived through the tragic event were not alone.

Members of the North Hardin High School Choir are only teenagers, but on Saturday, they did their best to sooth a deep pain that pre-dates their own existence by more than a decade.

"My daughter Patty was the youngest child killed in the crash," MADD member Karolyn Nunnallee said. "After she died, I just decided I need to do something about it."

Patty was just ten years old on May 14, 1988, when drunk driver Larry Mahoney was going the wrong way on interstate 71 and slammed head-on into a church bus.

"I miss her," Nunnallee said. "I miss her."

Patty was only one of the 27 people killed that day.

"Sandra Jean 'Sandy' Brewer," Nunnalle said, reading out the names of the other who died after the crash.

Thirty years later, the loss is still being felt, as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others across the state ensure each victim is not forgotten.

"I honor you just personally and on behalf of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet," Dr. Noelle Hunter, an employee at the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, said, while fight fighting back tears.

For some of the 40 survivors gathering together Saturday, a tough anniversary is coupled with a celebration of life.

"Here comes the emotional part," survivor Kim Nelson said, as she began to cry. "That's what I know. I am passionate about my children."

Children who are now close to the age Nelson was during the crash that killed many of her friends.

"When you just read those 27 names - how can one person be responsible for such a horrible, horrible crash?" Nunnallee said.

Names read, and people pictured on the front side of a small memorial.

"It just really affects you," Nunnallee said. "They're not names, they were people."

People that still mean a lot to many, which can be seen if you look at the board filled with photographs - not from the front, but from behind, where the perspective it provides of people looking on, still hurting, is just as powerful.

Speakers noted that some progress has been made since the accident, when it comes to laws and attitudes related to drunk driving, but, many added, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to put an end to a crime they said is 100 percent preventable.

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