This Day in History: Deadliest drunken driving crash in US history kills 27 on school bus

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

On May 14, 1988, 27 people were killed in a bus crash, the deadliest drunken driving crash in the nation.It happened on Interstate 71 in Carroll County, Kentucky, about half way between Cincinnati and Louisville, following a church youth group’s visit to Kings Island. The bus was carrying 67 people, mostly children with the Radcliff youth group, when it was struck by a drunken driver traveling on the wrong side of the interstate.”Most of the people who died on the bus, and a lot of those who are seriously injured, are injured and dead because they tried to save someone else’s life,” one survivor said shortly after it happened.Most of those who died, 24 in all, were children. Three adults died. Meanwhile, 34 others were injured.”I (sic) seen flames and everybody screaming and started panicking. Everybody headed towards the back of the bus,” another survivor said. “And everybody was getting piled on and stacked on top of each other, running over each other. Nobody could get out.”Most of those who died were trapped inside of the bus and were unable to escape.Larry Mahoney, the driver of the pickup truck that struck the bus, was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He was released after serving 9 1/2 years.On the eve of the 30-year anniversary in 2018, survivors shared their stories. Quinton Higgins was among those on the bus; he was 15 years old.”People will never know what it’s like, even for us, to have been on that bus that night, but for all them to lose their life that night, there were two 10-year-olds. They didn’t know they were going to die. So if you can just get in your mind what that’s like, so yeah, we have to stand for them still,” Higgins said.Higgins was one of many who met at North Hardin High School to spread the message that drunken driving needs to stop.

On May 14, 1988, 27 people were killed in a bus crash, the deadliest drunken driving crash in the nation.

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It happened on Interstate 71 in Carroll County, Kentucky, about half way between Cincinnati and Louisville, following a church youth group’s visit to Kings Island.

The bus was carrying 67 people, mostly children with the Radcliff youth group, when it was struck by a drunken driver traveling on the wrong side of the interstate.

“Most of the people who died on the bus, and a lot of those who are seriously injured, are injured and dead because they tried to save someone else’s life,” one survivor said shortly after it happened.

Most of those who died, 24 in all, were children. Three adults died. Meanwhile, 34 others were injured.

“I (sic) seen flames and everybody screaming and started panicking. Everybody headed towards the back of the bus,” another survivor said. “And everybody was getting piled on and stacked on top of each other, running over each other. Nobody could get out.”

Most of those who died were trapped inside of the bus and were unable to escape.

Larry Mahoney, the driver of the pickup truck that struck the bus, was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He was released after serving 9 1/2 years.

On the eve of the 30-year anniversary in 2018, survivors shared their stories. Quinton Higgins was among those on the bus; he was 15 years old.

“People will never know what it’s like, even for us, to have been on that bus that night, but for all them to lose their life that night, there were two 10-year-olds. They didn’t know they were going to die. So if you can just get in your mind what that’s like, so yeah, we have to stand for them still,” Higgins said.

Higgins was one of many who met at North Hardin High School to spread the message that drunken driving needs to stop.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.

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