27 victims and 40 survivors honored 30 years after nation's worst drunk driving crash in Carroll County
A drunk driver traveling the wrong way on I-71 crashed head-on into a church bus.
RADCLIFF, Ky. (WDRB) -- May 14, 2018 marks 30 years since the deadliest drunk driving crash in U.S. history killed 27 people in Carroll County.
A church group from Radcliff was returning from a day at Kings Island in Ohio when Larry Mahoney, driving drunk, was going the wrong way on I-71 and crashed head on into the church bus.
“It gets easier through the years, but there are days that are so very difficult that you just don't feel like you can even get out of bed,” said Karolyn Nunnallee, who lost her 10-year-old daughter in the crash.
Twenty-four children and three adults were killed while 40 others survived.
To honor the victims, families and survivors, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers held a memorial event Saturday at North Hardin High School.
“We've battled through life, but we're still here,” said Quinton Higgins, who survived the crash. “You have flashbacks constantly. This is something you can't get rid of even if you want to. It just comes.”
Higgins shared his story Saturday. At the time of the crash, he was 15 years old. He said he remembers getting out of his seat and passing out.
“I laid on the floor for I don't know how long," Higgins said. "And I remember taking like a last breath, then something told me to get up."
Somehow, he made it to the back of the bus.
“I remember seeing the kids that were already deceased," Higgins said. "And somehow, I stuck my arm through them and a truck driver pulled me off."
Moments later, the bus blew up from a ruptured gas tank.
It's taken Higgins years to talk about the crash, but he has since found strength in the depths of his pain.
“No matter what happens to you in life, don't let it beat you down," he said. "I don't care what happens. Battle through it."
Because of what happened three decades ago, Higgins wants others to take this tragedy and learn from it, especially when it comes to drinking and driving or new dangers like texting and driving.
“Making right choices ... becoming a person to have the courage to speak up when you see something wrong,” Higgins said.
As for Mahoney, Higgins has found peace with him.
“I forgive him," Higgins said. "He didn't intend on getting up and killing 27 people. He made a bad choice."
It's all about choices. That's what survivors and families who lost loved ones in the crash want others to know, especially Nunnallee.
“All of the children ... the ones that died with (my daughter), they had great futures," Nunnallee said. "And they were cut short because of one man who made the wrong choice to drink and drive and literally ruined hundreds of lives."
Mahoney spent nearly 11 years in prison.
“Drinking is such a common thing that we just don't think it can happen," Higgins said. "It takes one time."
The crash brought about numerous safety improvements for buses like more emergency exits, flame retardant seats and push out windows.
Copyright 2018 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.