On May 14, 1988, many families received news that changed their lives forever: their loved ones were victims in the deadliest drunk-driving accident in United States history. To this day, this 1988 crash holds that record.
Karolyn Nunnallee had just gotten back from church when she heard the terrible news that her 10-year-old daughter, Patty, was killed in a bus crash. Her daughter was returning from a church-arranged trip to an amusement park when the crash occurred.
"My husband called and asked me where were Patty's dental records. My logical mind knew you don't just ask for dental records if there were survivors," Nunnallee said, according to ABC News.
Nunnallee's daughter was killed in a violent collision on an interstate outside of Carrolton, Kentucky. A total of 27 people were killed — 24 of those were children. Another 34 were injured.
As a result of the crash, an array of driving regulations were implemented for buses and, perhaps more importantly, awareness of the dangers of drunk driving was brought to the nation's attention. This crash helped to spur a lowering of the legal threshold for blood-alcohol content throughout the country, thereby making it more difficult to drink and drive.
ABC News reports that after three decades, many of the survivors claim that not enough has been done since the tragedy to prevent drunk driving.
"I know lives have been saved," said Nunnallee, referring to the legislation passed and widespread awareness about the dangers of drunk driving that were spurred from the crash that killed her daughter. "But sadly, too many have been lost," she added.
The Carrolton crash occurred at around 11 pm when a drunk driver in a truck was traveling on the wrong side of the interstate. The truck then slammed into an oncoming school bus filled with children. Unprotected gas tanks then ruptured near the front door, causing highly flammable seats to catch fire inside of the bus.
Experts have called for improvements on these buses, including safer seats and better emergency exits. In newer buses everywhere, gas tanks are protected by steel cages.
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