I suffer from dystychiphobia, the fear of accidents. It’s pretty intense. FIve years ago, while staying in Arizona one Spring, I witnessed a horrifying accident that to this day keeps me up at night. Still, I can’t help reading and being slightly obsessed with accident reports. Here are six recent-ish ones that are pretty awful.
1. May 14, 1988
The worst bus accident in American history occurred on the way home from a church trip to an amusement park.
First Assembly of God Church in Radcliffe, KY sponsored a youth trip to King’s Island amusement park on a former school bus that then served as a church activity bus. Outside of Carrollton, KY, at 11PM, a black Toyota pick-up truck, driven by an intoxicated Larry Wayne Mahoney, struck the bus nearly head on. Mahoney had been driving in the wrong direction on I-71. The crash disabled the front door of the bus and ruptured the gas tank. Within minutes, the bus was completely engulfed in flames. Of the 66 passengers, 27 died on the bus, 34 were injured—most severely. Mahony was sentenced to 16 years in jail. Two of the mothers of crash victims, Karolyn Nunnallee and Janey Fair, became President and Vice President, respectively, of the National MADD (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving) Association. It was determined that the lack of emergency exits, fragility of the gas tank, flammability of the seats and a cooler that was blocking the only functioning exit, all contributed to the high fatality rate.
2. December 11, 1990
Just after 9AM, on a stretch of I-75 in Tennessee, dense fog blanketed the highway and led to a 70-car pile-up. There had been warning signs posted but conditions deteriorated too quickly for them to help motorists. The wreckage stretched for a half mile and caused 13 fatalities. The car fires added to the chaos and 33 different fire companies responded to the call. Survivors say that it sounded like endless bombs and gunshots going off as one car after another plowed into the mess. Tennessee has since installed an improved fog warning system with fog sensors that can change the read out on highway signs to alert motorists and also close on-ramps to prevent pile-ups. Reflective markers and flashing lights were also installed to help guide cars stuck in fog.