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Thomas Hertz didn’t sleep Tuesday night.
Along with many survivors from the church bus crash near Carrollton, Hertz observed the 25th anniversary of the crash Tuesday by attending a private viewing of the documentary “IMPACT: After the Crash” at the Historic State Theater in Elizabethtown.
The 82-minute documentary took survivors back to that fateful night in 1988. To the parents and families of those who died in the crash, it provided further insight into what their loved ones endured on Interstate 71.
“I just kept seeing my friends every time I would close my eyes,” Hertz said in an email. “It was very powerful to me; almost too close on its accuracy.”
Karolyn Nunnallee, whose daughter, Patty, 10, was one of 27 killed in the May 14, 1988, crash, said the finished product was “a very emotional and grabbing piece.”
“Coming from a victim’s perspective, I was very impressed,” she said.
“It was artfully done. I know it is an often-used term, but I was blown away by it. I was very happy with the end result.”
The documentary, with Harold Dennis, one of the 40 survivors, and Jason Epperson as executive directors, told the tale of the day and the crash’s aftermath.
Darrin Jaquess, another survivor, said it was an emotional night that capped a day of events marking the anniversary. He said you could hear sobbing in the theater and see people wiping tears from their eyes.
“I don’t think they tried to reach too far into things; just enough to get the picture out,” Jaquess said of producers.
He said the film properly showcased the tragedy that resulted when a drunken Larry Mahoney slammed his black pickup truck into the bus while driving the wrong way on I-71.
Jaquess said producers and directors didn’t try to “Hollywood” it. Instead, the film depicted the horror of that night and what bad decisions “can do to you and others.”
“A lot of people really didn’t embrace the idea of doing this documentary,” Jaquess said. “After they watched it, I believe it changed their minds.”
One of his three sons, Zach, appeared in the documentary portraying one of the children attending the day’s events at King’s Island.
Nunnallee said a conversation Tuesday with Dennis put the documentary into perspective. She said he told her he didn’t know how those who lost children that night were able to move forward.
“These were just kids then but now many of them have children of their own,” she said. “It’s a full-circle perspective for them.”
According the documentary’s website, the plan is to screen the film next month and start entering festivals across the country. The film cannot be shown again until after the festival tour because festivals typically do not accept films being shown to the public. Those behind the film hope it garners a distribution deal so the documentary can be shown over many media platforms, according to its website.
Wednesday night’s showing at the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center sold out in 48 hours.
Jeff D’Alessio can be reached at (270) 505-1757 or firstname.lastname@example.org.