Carrollton Bus Crash survivor makes works to make a difference every day

by Brian Giesenschlag - email | bio | Facebook

He's Kentucky high school basketball's reigning Coach of the Year.

"Basketball is the one thing that got me through. That and my faith in God."

Jason Booher left Shelby Valley High School in eastern Kentucky after a state championship last season to take over the tradition rich program at Holmes High School in Covington.

But 22 years ago, Booher was 13 years old and an eight grader in Radcliff, Kentucky.  When he took a trip with some of his best friends to Kings Island.

"It was beautiful outside, we got to ride all the rides. I was with my friends. Up to that point it was the best day of my life.  Little did I know that it would turn into the worst day of my life a few hours down the road."

May 14, 1988, on the way back to Radcliff from Kings island the school bus taking Booher and his friends was hit head on by a pickup traveling north in the southbound lane near Carrollton, Kentucky.

"It went from loud and chaos, laughing and telling jokes to dead silence for about two seconds with the impact of the truck on the bus."

The impact also punctured an unprotected gas tank near the front of the bus, which caught fire in a matter of seconds.

"At the trial they said the temperature inside the bus, in 90 seconds went to 1500 degrees."

The bus was equipped with only one emergency exit.  With the front entrance of the bus damaged and engulfed in flames, the door at the rear of the bus was the only way out for 64 kids and three adults on the trip.

Pointing to a seating chart with black boxes Booher points to his location, "I was sitting here against the window, on the outside. "The little girl I was dating was next to me then my best friend Chad and his girlfriend was sitting on a cooler out in the aisle."

"I didn't go down the aisle. I saw kids piled up at the exit and saw a small opening at the top.  I dove through it and landed on the asphalt below. Everyone in black didn't make it out."

"The black soot was so thick you couldn't see more than a foot or two inside the bus.  We pulled all those kids away from the exit and we thought we had everybody out."

Twenty-seven people died that day.

Including Booher's best friend.

The driver of the truck that hit the bus was drunk.

The Carrollton Bus Crash is the deadliest alcohol related accident in U-S history.

Booher does speak from time to time at churches and schools, how the accident changed his life and the dangers of drinking and driving. But he believes his story has the biggest impact on the young men he coaches.  The lessons he can teach everyday on the basketball court.

"The kids come from all types of backgrounds and I tell them I overcame this great tragedy and you can overcome things in your lives if I can rebound from that."

Booher is excited about his new coaching position.

"Covington Holmes is one of a handful of jobs I would leave for.  Shelby valley is one of the best jobs in the state.  I wanna win a lot of games here and have an impact on these guys lives here."