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Carrollton Bus Crash Open Resp.


Read over the Carrollton Bus Crash story then answer ALL components of the question below.  This assignment should end up being 1-2 pages in length if handwritten or ½ - ¾ page if typed using size 12 Times New Roman font.

Open Response Question:

  1. Explain what a risk behavior is.  Describe one risk behavior from the Carrollton Bus Crash story and how it could have been avoided.
  2. Describe four changes that were made in bus manufacturing as a result of the Carrollton Bus Crash and explain how each of those changes would have affected the outcome of the Crash.
  3. Explain how your decision making has changed or will change based on the events of this story.


Carrollton Bus Crash Open Response Rubric












Lacks focus and development

Attempts focus; Ideas not fully developed

Develops a focus; Uses some descriptive language; Details support idea; Communicates original ideas

Establishes a clear focus; Uses descriptive language; Provides relevant information; Communicates creative ideas



No sense of sentence structure

Limited word choice; Basic sentence structure

Diverse word choice; Uses descriptive words; Sentence variety

Uses effective language; Uses high-level vocabulary; Use of sentence variety


Grammar & Mechanics

Many spelling, grammar,

and punctuation errors;

incorrect use of


Some spelling & grammar errors; most

sentences have


Few spelling and grammar

errors; correct


Correct spelling, grammar,

and punctuation;




Carrollton Bus Crash Overview:

On May 14, 1988, a group of teenagers and four adults boarded a bus and headed to Kings Island.   The group left early that morning and traveled uneventfully to the park. They spent the whole day and early evening at Kings Island, then boarded the bus and began traveling out of Ohio and back into Northern Kentucky toward Radcliff. After about an hour, they stopped to fill the 60-gallon fuel tank with gasoline, and then resumed the trip southward.

Just before 11:00 p.m., while heading south on Interstate 71 outside of Carrollton, Kentucky, the bus collided almost head-on with a black Toyota pickup truck which was traveling the wrong way (north in the southbound lanes) at a high speed on a curved stretch of the highway. The small truck was driven by Larry Wayne Mahoney, a 34 year-old factory worker who was intoxicated.

The right front of the pickup truck hit the right front of the bus, making the front door inoperable and puncturing the gas tank.  The leaking gasoline was ignited by sparks caused from metal parts of the bus’s suspension scraping along the road.  As the seat covers and the highly flammable polyurethane foam padding ignited, the temperature inside the bus rose to an estimated 2,000 degrees and a thick cloud of poisonous smoke filled the interior of the bus from the ceiling down to seat level within a minute.

Nobody aboard the bus was seriously injured by the actual collision, but the front loading door of the bus was jammed shut by impact damage and blocked by the fire which began immediately after the crash.  Almost all of the children began trying to exit through the single rear emergency door. The bus driver and one chaperone tried to douse the flames with the bus's fire extinguisher.  Another chaperone, a small-bodied woman, managed to squeeze out a 9 in. x 24 in. window opening on the left side near the front. Of the four adults aboard the bus, she was the only survivor. Attempts by some of the other passengers to break or kick out any of the split-sash type side windows were unsuccessful.

When more than 60 people were trying to reach the only available exit—the rear emergency door— a crush of bodies was created on the floor in the 12 inch aisle between the seats. Many passengers found themselves unable to move. A beverage cooler had also been earlier placed in the aisle near row 10 which made this problem worse.

Passersby and some of the escaped passengers helped to pull children out through the rear door, and help them to the ground.  Within four minutes, the entire bus was on fire and engulfed the entire interior of the bus, trapping the 27 people remaining aboard.  At that point, no more passengers were accessible from outside the bus. Emergency vehicles had not yet arrived.  27 of the 67 passengers on the bus were killed.  Mahoney, the drunk driver of the pick-up truck, sustained minor injuries.

Later, fire, rescue, and police responded to the scene.  They treated and transported survivors, and extinguished the fire, then a crane was used to load the bus onto a flatbed truck that transported the bus and those who were killed (still on the bus) to the National Guard Armory in Carrollton. There, The Kentucky State Police went through the interior of the bus seat by seat to find and remove bodies. Many bodies were found facing the only exit, the rear door. The coroner later determined that none of the bus occupants suffered broken bones or mortal injuries from the crash impact; all had died from the fire.

Mahoney had been arrested for DUI before. He was a repeat drunk driving offender.  His blood alcohol concentration (BAC) the night of the crash was .24 percent.  Kentucky’s legal limit is .08. Mahoney had no memory of the crash and learned of the collision after waking in the hospital the next day.  He was sentenced to imprisonment for 16 years after a jury of the Carroll Circuit Court, under Indictment No. 88-CR-27, convicted him of 27 counts of manslaughter in the second degree, 16 counts of assault in the second degree, 27 counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree, and one count of driving while under the influence of intoxicants.

Mahoney worked in a medium-security facility (Kentucky State Reformatory) as a janitor. He earned his GED high school equivalency diploma and participated in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous programs. He even had his driver’s license reinstated.  He was described by authorities as a model prisoner.  Mahoney was able to reduce his incarceration by six years with good behavior.  Mahoney left the prison in La Grange, KY on September 1, 1999, having served 9 ½ years.

Kentucky now requires all school buses to have nine emergency exits—more than any other federal or state standard. This includes front and back doors, a side door, four emergency windows and two roof exits. The bus that crashed at Carrollton had only front and back exits, and 11 rows of 39" seats, including the crucial area near the rear door.

Buses used by Kentucky schools must also have a cage around the fuel tank, a stronger frame and roof to resist crumpling on impact and rollover, high-backed seats, extra seat padding, a fuel system that slows leaks, flame-retardant seats and floors, reflective tape on all emergency exits, and strobe lights on the exterior. Schools also must have a diesel-powered fleet.