Scott Brown handles most of the sports duties for Ham Broadcasting. In addition to providing daily sports news on this blog, he broadcasts high school football, basketball and baseball games on WKDZ and WHVO. He also hosts the Saturday Morning Sports Report on WKDZ - one of the few local sports programs in the area. His local sports has been the most read in Trigg County for several years.
Harold Dennis Talks About Movie, Carrollton Bus Crash
by Scott Brown,posted Aug 10 2013 2:38AM
May 14th marked the 25th anniversary of the worst drunk-driving crash in U.S history, known by most people as the Carrollton bus crash. Shortly before 11pm, 27 people were killed and 34 more were injured when the church bus they were riding on collided with a drunk driver on I-71 in Carroll County.
Of course, the children and adults injured were not from Carrollton. They were from the First Assembly of God in Radcliff in Hardin County. Many of the students attended North Hardin High School.
27 people were killed when the right front of the bus collided with the right front of Larry Mahoney's pickup truck, which was going the wrong way on I-71 shortly before 11pm. The bus was returning from King's Island. Many of the people on the bus were asleep.
When the two vehicles collided, the impact drove a spring into the gas tank located behind the driver's seat. The gas and tank quickly ignited. Between the ignited gas and the flammable foam inside the bus seats, the cabin of the bus quickly caught fire, reaching an estimated 2,000 degrees, according to reports.
Autopsies showed no one died from injuries due to the crash. They died from smoke inhalation and/or burns. Many could not get off the bus because of the fire at the front of the bus and the crush of people at the back of the bus where the only other exit was located.
One of the survivors was Harold Dennis, who suffered extreme burns. Years after surviving the crash, Dennis walked on the University of Kentucky football team and later earned a full athletic scholarship for his last two seasons as a wide receiver. Harold earned several national awards at UK, including the Arete Award for Courage in sports, the Gene Autrey Award for Courage in Sports, and the Johnny Unitas Courage Award.
On the 25th anniversary of the crash, Dennis has teamed with writer Daniel Blake Smith and director Jason Epperson, a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, to release a documentary "Impact: After the Crash", which looks back at the crash.
Dennis spoke to the Kentucky Lifesavers Conference in Louisville Wednesday and showed some video clips. The documentary was released in May and already has screenings upcoming at film festivals in Louisville and St. Louis.
I was fortunate to speak with Harold after the conference to talk about the making of the film.
Based on the trailer below and the video clips shown at the conference, "Impact" looks outstanding.
Of course, you are impacted by the crash every day and probably don't realize it.
The bus was a 1977 Ford -- only 11 years old and had been purchased by the church from the Meade County school system.
Kentucky now requires all school buses to have nine emergency exits--more than any other federal or state standard. All school buses must have front and back doors, a side door, four emergency windows and two roof exits. They must also have a cage around the fuel tank, a stronger frame and roof to resist crumpling on impact and rollover, high-backed seats, extra seat padding, flame-retardant seats and floors, reflective tape on all emergency exits, and strobe lights on the exterior.
Schools also must have a diesel-powered fleet. Buses also have luggage and storage compartments located under the bus so that equipment and luggage isn't placed at the rear of the bus, blocking the rear exit.
As for Larry Mahoney, his blood alcohol content at the time of the crash was 0.24 -- more than twice the legal limit at the time. He remembers nothing of the crash. Anyone who has traveled that section of I-71 has to ask themselves "How can anyone drive the wrong way on the interstate at night for three miles and not hit anything or run off the road??" When I drove that section of road recently, I asked myself that.
He was convicted of 27 counts of manslaughter and 16 counts of assault. He served 10 years and 11 months before he was released in 1999. Kentucky law said each person killed in the crash was worth five months in jail. Five months. That doesn't count those injured like Harold Dennis. There are some who feel like Mahoney could tell a strong anti-alcohol message to other people. He has refused to do so. He lives anonomously in Owen County today.
Since the crash, Kentucky has lowered the per se limit on DUIs to .08. They have also toughened up the DUI laws some, but not where it applies to alcohol-related deaths.
Here is the movie trailer for "Impact: After the Crash"