Every year in May, the American news media reminds all of us about the terrible DUI crash back in 1988 that cost 27 people (mostly children) their lives.
The incident is the deadliest DUI related incident in history, and is considered a landmark tragedy in the anti-drunk driving advocacy movement.
What Actually Took Place During This 1988 Catastrophic DUI Accident
According to a new documentary entitled, “Impact: After the Crash,” a group of innocent children and their chaperones boarded a bus to go spend a fun day at an amusement park with other members of their church. The day was still going remarkably well as the group began making its way back to Radcliff, Kentucky.
Unfortunately, factory worker Larry Mahoney, impaired by too much alcohol, suddenly slammed into the bus. The impact ruptured the fuel tank on the bus and started and unimaginably horrific fire on the bus. Endless suffering was set in motion for the survivors after their loved ones perished that day. As for the drunk driver, Mahoney, he wound up spending almost 10 years in prison (of a 17-year sentence) for killing 27 people.
Individual Lives Changed Forever
- Karolyn Nunnallee still recalls what it was like being asked to locate her 10-year-old daughter’s dental records all those years ago – just in hopes of identifying her child’s body. She later became so concerned about this country’s DUI epidemic that she even served one year as the national president of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers);
- Harold Dennis was only 14 years old on the day of the crash. He lost his best friend and many other classmates that day. He still recalls trying to find his way out of the bus that was crowded with others trying to save their own lives. As he put it in a recent article published by People magazine, “I knew my life was over and felt that frantic feeling that can’t be described unless you’ve gone through it.”He remains grateful to the person who helped pull him free of the bus. Dennis couldn’t see anything because his eyes “were swollen shut.” The temperature inside the bus, due to the extensive flames, actually reached about 2,000 degrees;
- Bus Driver Quinton Higgins. He remembers that the large bus contained about 67 passengers and how he feared that most of them might die that day after the crash. When Higgins was pulled out of the bus, his body was covered with burns. He says he was told that he only had a 50% chance of surviving his ordeal;
- Lee Williams. Just like the bus driver quoted above, Williams felt like his entire life went up in flames that day – he lost his wife and two little girls. He was haunted by all those losses — months later, he sought out the companionship of another survivor who lost loved ones in the fiery crash. He and that woman have since married. They’ve worked hard to help each other heal from their mutual tragedy. Yet Williams says he still recalls all of the incredible “loneliness, hurt and complete emptiness” he felt right after losing his wife and daughters back in 1988. His memories still haunt him at times, although he’s grateful for his new marriage.
This tragic incident unquestionably changed the landscape for drunk driving awareness, advocacy, prevention, and tougher laws. A lot has changed since that day. Drunk driving is simply not socially acceptable, and drunk driving penalties in every state are considerably stricter.
If you’ve been arrested for DUI and need advice about how you should proceed with your case, contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Matson. As a Massachusetts DUI defense attorney, he can tell you how to fully protect your legal rights. Call today: (781) 380-7730.
By Elizabeth Smith