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Survivors, Family Mark 30th Anniversary Of Carrollton Bus Crash

Carrollton bus crash memorial sign

Monday will mark the 30th anniversary of the nation’s deadliest drunken driving crash. A commemoration of the anniversary will be held Saturday at North Hardin High School in Radcliff starting at 10 a.m.

Twenty-seven people, most of them children, were killed when their church bus was struck head-on by a pickup truck traveling the wrong way on Interstate-71 in Carroll County, Kentucky.

Members of the Assembly of God Church in Radcliff were returning from an amusement park outing in Ohio when the crash occurred on May 14, 1988. The driver of the pickup, Larry Mahoney, had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the state’s legal limit at the time. He served nearly 11 years in prison for manslaughter and other offenses.

Karolyn Nunnallee will be among the speakers at Saturday's commemoration, sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Her 10-year-old daughter, Patty, was killed in the crash.

Nunnallee, who served as national president of MADD in the late 1990s, said she’s looking forward to reconnecting with the survivors of the crash and their families.

“It will be a wonderful reunion, they’ve always been very special to me," she said. "Recently, I have become friends with about four of them and I really look forward to seeing them. It’s like a family reunion, getting to see them again."

Nunnallee said the crash led to stricter drunken-driving laws across the country that have saved lives, but impaired drivers continue to kill and injure thousands of people each year.

She said getting through these anniversaries hasn’t gotten any easier.

“No matter how you try to get it out of your mind, there’s always that memory of the loved one that you lost," Nunnallee said. "Patty was very dear to me. Last year, as a matter of fact, my third grandchild was christened on that day and my daughter thought that it would be a happy time for us, and as happy as things are, you still remember what you have lost.”

Also speaking at the event will be two crash survivors, and Paul Richwalsky, who prosecuted the case against Larry Mahoney.

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." Email Rick at rhowlett@lpm.org.