Memorial Held For Carrollton Bus Crash Victims

May 14, 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of the nation's deadliest drunk driving crash. 27 people lost their lives on Interstate 71 near Carrollton.

A church bus from First Assembly of God in Radcliffe was on its way back from a trip to Kings Island when tragedy struck.

Drunk Driver Larry Mahoney was traveling the wrong way along I-71 when he ran into the bus. The collision caused the gasoline tanks to rupture and burst into flames.

67 people were on board at the time of the crash. Many of them became trapped inside the burning bus. Twenty four children and 3 adults were killed. Forty people escaped with their lives, but a dozen were disfigured by terrible burns.

Mahoney served nearly 10 years behind bars after he was convicted of manslaughter. The Carrollton factory worker was sentenced to 16 years, but got out early for good behavior. Mahoney was released from prison in 1999.

Since the crash, Kentucky enacted stricter drunk driving laws. The state also changed safety requirements on school buses, including increasing the number of emergency exits.

On Wednesday, a special memorial was held at the North Hardin Memorial Gardens in honor of the crash victims and survivors. One by one, each victim's name was read and a family member lit a candle in their honor.

For one survivor, Wednesday's memorial was a reunion she never expected. For the first time since the tragedy, Cairen Madden came face to face with a woman she says saved her life.

EMT Susan Lance was a first responder on the deadly scene May 14th, 1988. Lance cared for several children pulled out of the burning bus, including Madden. She told 27NEWSFIRST she's spent the last two decades wondering how the young survivors have been doing since the crash.

Harold Dennis, now 34 years old, credits the tragedy with his lifetime of achievements, including his success as a UK football player.

He said any resentment toward Mahoney has since diminished, but the memories are a different story.

"They're just as vivid as ever. They haven't faded a bit. They never will. That's something that's gonna be a permanent imprint on my mind," he said.

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