Nearly a year after the public premiere of “Impact: After the Crash,” a documentary about the 1988 Carroll County, Kentucky, church bus crash caused by a drunk driver, the film is being incorporated into classes for people convicted of driving under the influence. Jason Epperson, the film’s director, participated in a DUI training program at Eastern Kentucky University with crash survivor Harold Dennis.
The documentary was shown Friday to 150 administrators who manage programs for DUI offenders. It features stories about the 27 people who perished and survivors’ memories of the crash, which is considered the second deadliest bus disaster in the U.S.
“Meeting and intimately learning about the families and the survivors and what they went through in this crash, it was incredible. It was a very worthy project, a project that I feel like I hang my hat on and something to be proud to be part of,” said Epperson in an NPR report.
The film was also screened for NAPT members last fall at the association’s Summit in Grand Rapids, Mich.
On May 14, 1988, an inebriated motorist in a pickup truck driving in the wrong direction on Interstate 71 near Carrollton collided head-on with a school bus transporting a church youth group from Radcliff. The bus’ gas tank ruptured on impact, causing the vehicle to burst into flames and killing 27 of the 67 passengers on board — most of them children — who were unable to evacuate.
The truck’s driver, Larry Mahoney, had been drinking throughout the day before making the choice to get behind the wheel. He had crossed the median, traveled about three-tenths of a mile going the wrong way and passed about 14 vehicles, before striking the church bus, police officials said in the film. Mahoney had a blood-alcohol level of .24.
The deadly crash also led to NHTSA revising Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 217to improve school bus egress, FMVSS 301 to increase fuel tank integrity and FMVSS 302 to make interior materials less flammable. Kentucky also specified that only less-flammable diesel school buses could be used in the state and increased the number of emergency exit doors and roof hatches.
Learn more about preventing bus fires in the May edition of School Transportation News and at the upcoming STN EXPO — workshop details coming soon.