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Image 7 of Kentucky Alumnus, vol. 65, no. 4, 1995

Part of Kentucky alumnus

l I V I I, . V They made it out with mostly minor I A i injuries. Harold’s older sister, Kim, I ’ V. E was sitting in the fifth row back and ~ Y. I suffered lung damage and minor I V A , _ VV g burns to her ear and hand. V ‘ I ` _g_ - . With his eyelids seared to a puffy I " " W w V ’V V close, Harold groped his way to the VVV ; rear exit, passing two grade-school [ I . friends who were frozen with fear and if y ® tiVV ’ K locked in a last embrace. He made it " - '___V V I * ”»i°i 2 — to the last row and apparently passed ’ ’,` { " ` out. If it weren’t for one of the good l iw, IV`; # I 3 W . VV V. I ~ ` · Samaritans who had pulled over to l is we VV ,V I V •` help, he might have died. I ., %» ........ . I 0 Q "Th€ suv Said hs Saw bodies mid Ig; I I V *,*1 _ . V arms, and for some reason 1ny arms E f y i ”’es V i VV V . » V _i ` stood out," Harold said. "There was . E V . VV ° no response on the hrst pull. He Silld _g VV r V V i , _ ` l he wasn t going to give up, so he € . .. ’ ‘> g pulled again as hard as he could, and I UK football coach Bill Curry has given Harold Dennis the opportunity to fell out.” compete for playing time just as he has all his players. His shoulder and neck were burned so raw that the blades of grass beneath Larry Mahoney, a 34-year-old chem- The ruptured fuel tank began hem- his head felt like hypodermic needles. ical worker from Owen County, orrhaging gasoline. It ignited "not like Fearing he would soon go into shock, stepped into his four-wheel-drive Toy- a bomb," Harold recalled, but in a i someone slapped a blanket over him. ota pickup with an open six-pack of roaring whoosh akin to the combus- { "I was like, ‘Get that off me! I’m Miller Lite. He had drunk enough tion of lighter fluid on a grill. He I hot! I’m sitting here burning, and already. reached over Andy Marks and made a you’re putting a blanket on me!"’ C Blood tests eventually would reveal futile attempt to open the window. Harold recalled. The next thing I a blood alcohol level of 0.24 percent, Because his face, shoulder and arm remember, Iwas in the hospital." more than twice the level at which a were burned, and not much else, doc- Twenty-seven of his friends never person is presumed to be legally intox- tors guessed he made a disoriented made it that far. The bus was old and icated. About two hours before those dash for the front door, where the fire had no steel cage around the gas tank, tests were taken, Mahoney drove up raged the hottest, then doubled back , and its seats were made of a type of an exit ramp and headed the wrong toward the rear exit. foam rubber that emits highly toxic way on I-71. "I really have no idea," Harold said. hydrogen cyanide gas when burned. . Like most of his friends, Harold was “I don’t actually remember even being The coroner ruled that all 27 died sleeping when Mahoney’s truck on fire. It was like I blacked out and of smoke inhalation, which provides crashed into their school bus. His the next thing I remember, I’m off Harold with some small solace, "I head shot forward into the seat ahead the bus." V think it would be better to die of a col- of him, which is why his memory of According to other survivors, the ` orless, odorless fume than be burned T the ensuing events remains fuzzy. bus was engulfed in smoke, flames and to death,” he said. ` However, his recollection squares with a cacophony of noises — screaming, Among the dead were john Pear- stories told by other survivors. crackling, scrambling sounds. Hair man, the bus driver, and Chuck Kytta, V. "The bus didn’t explode right spray cans and helium balloons the group leader. The survivors were if then," he said. "I kind of remember a exploded from the intense heat. evacuated to several hospitals in the i lot of commotion and screaming and i Plumes of fire nearly IO feet high shot I region. Harold wound up at Kosair frantic hitting and whatnot. All of a out of the front right side. In the stair- Children’s Hospital in Louisville, sudden it got quiet. I assume everyone well, flames licked the bus from floor where he spent the next 44 days. The was thinking, “VVhew! I’m glad that’s to ceiling. doctors thought he probably would over.’ ” Of the 39 surviving children, 23 live, though his life would never be V It had onlyjust begun. were sitting in the back four rows. the same. V [ Winter 1995 Kentucky Alumnus 5 l