This May 15, 1988 file photo shows the scene where at least 27 members of a church outing were killed May 14, 1988 when their bus collided head-on with a pickup truck and burst into flames in Carollton, Ky.
It is the nation's deadliest drunken-driving crash.
On May 14, 1988, a drunken motorist driving on the wrong side of a Kentucky highway slammed head-on into a school bus carrying 67 people, mostly children, headed home from a church trip to an amusement park.
The crash ruptured the bus' gas tank, sparking a fast-moving inferno that claimed the lives of 25 children, the bus driver and an adult chaperon; 34 other people were injured.
The horrific crash spurred major changes in the operation and equipment of school buses in Kentucky and other states and it led to stronger DUI laws in the Bluegrass State.
"There is no question that it changed the way Kentuckians and frankly people around the country viewed drinking and driving," says Mark Hebert, 53, who covered the crash for WHAS-TV in Louisville and is now director of media relations at the University of Louisville.
Two of the mothers who lost children in the crash, Karolyn Nunnallee and Janey Fair, sued the school bus manufacturers, which led to major improvements in school bus safety, such as safer gas tanks, more emergency exits and less flammable fuel.
Marking the 25th anniversary, a new documentary about the crash, IMPACT: After the Crash, will be screened for survivors and victims' families Tuesday in Radcliff, Ky. It will also be shown in schools around the state.
At a time when senseless tragedies seem to occur with greater frequency, the film aims to inspire today's random victims by sharing the stories of survivors on that bus, says Harold Dennis, the film's producer and a crash survivor.
Dennis, 39, of Lexington, was asleep as the group returned from King's Island theme park north of Cincinnati. The crash occurred about 10:55 p.m., on Interstate 71 south near Carrollton. Larry Wayne Mahoney, 34, was intoxicated and driving his black Toyota pickup north in the southbound lanes of I-71.
"It's almost like time slowed down," Dennis says. "The bus burst into flames. There was just mass chaos instantly." He says he ran first toward the front of the bus, then tried to escape out of a window before making his way to the back door. He suffered third-degree burns to his face, severe lung damage and other injuries. Dennis went on to play football at the University of Kentucky as a walk-on, and is married with three children and training to be a physician's assistant.
Carey Cummins, 39 now and a full-time mom in Yorktown, Va., was 14 and sitting in the front seat on the right -- closest to the point of impact. She couldn't get to the back door, and passed out, collapsing face down in a seat, and dreamed that she was on a roller coaster that kept turning her upside down. "In the dream I said, I've got to wake up," she says. "I woke up. I distinctly remember thinking, Oh my God, I'm going to die. And then something built up in me. I can't explain it. Something said, 'No, I'm not going to die on this bus.'"
Cummins tried to walk, but couldn't. She pulled herself toward the back of the bus, one seat at a time, until she reached the back door and fell out onto the ground. She suffered third-degree burns over 60% of her body and fourth-degree burns on her right leg. Doctors amputated her right leg below the knee 12 days later.
Cummins went on to be a nurse and a mother. "It has made me a stronger person," she says.
Nunnallee, 62, became an advocate for school-bus safety and drunken-driving prevention after losing her daughter, Patty, 10, in the crash. She was national president of MADD in 1998-99. She says the new documentary, directed by Jason Epperson, is "a powerful piece of film."
Jan Withers, national president of MADD, says the film and the crash anniversary are reminders "of how much work we still have to do. It blows me away that we still have 27 people a day killed in drunk driving crashes in this country," she says.