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Services For 14 More Bus Crash Victims Today

May 20, 1988

RADCLIFF, Ky. (AP) _ Funerals for 14 young people who died in a fiery bus crash were being held today after a huge memorial service for all 27 victims, at which a minister told tearful mourners, ″Don’t blame God.″

A mass funeral is scheduled tonight for seven of the victims at the First Assembly of God Church, which owned the bus. Separate funerals for the other four were being held today and tonight.

Three victims of the disaster were eulogized this morning in funeral services in two Kentucky towns and in Florida.

″It just got terribly emotional at the Our Father. I just got all choked up. It was a moment when the whole church just let go together,″ said the Rev. Jim Graf, pastor of St. Monica Catholic Church in Bardstown, where a funeral Mass was said for Sandy Brewer, 12.

In his homily, Graf likened the child’s death to Paul’s final departure from his beloved church at Ephesus, where ″in tears (the Ephesians) gave him up because they would not see him again.″

An estimated 6,000 people, including Gov. Wallace Wilkinson, packed North Hardin High School’s football stadium for the memorial service in this town near Fort Knox Thursday night. The stadium is next to the cemetery where many of the victims are being buried.

″Why do bad things happen to good people?,″ asked the Rev. Gene Waggoner, whose Baptist church lost two members in the crash. ″None of us can answer that question. And if we could, it wouldn’t take away your grief.″

″I suggest that you do not blame anybody on that bus. I suggest that you don’t blame God; God did not cause this,″ he added. ″There is sin in this world ... and there are those who make wrong choices, and innocent people pay the price.″

Twenty-four children and three adults were killed Saturday night when a pickup truck traveling the wrong way on Interstate 71 struck the bus, rupturing its fuel tank and setting it ablaze. The truck’s driver allegedly was drunk and has been charged with 27 counts of murder.

The crash occurred 100 miles northeast of this Army post town, as the bus carried members of First Assembly’s youth group and guests home from a day at an amusement park north of Cincinnati.

At the stadium Thursday, many people broke down during the singing of ″What a Friend We Have in Jesus″ at the start of the service. Many clasped hands and supported others during prayers.

Bleachers in the stadium can hold 2,400 people, and chairs were set up on the field to boost capacity to about 4,000. Rows of people crowded around the perimeters of the field.

W. Don Tennison, pastor of the First Assembly of God Church, read letters from President and Nancy Reagan and Vice President and Barbara Bush.

″Your pain and loss is ours too,″ said the Reagans’ letter. ″Your countrymen are with you in prayer.″

The mass funeral here tonight was for Dwailla Fischel, 12; Richard Keith Gohn, 19; Anthony Marks, 15; Phillip Lee Morgan, 13; William J. Nichols Jr., 17; Emillie S. Thompson, 13; and Crystal Erin Uhey, 13.

Miss Fischel was to be buried in Denver. The other six were to be buried inNorth Hardin Memorial Gardens cemetery, which is next to the stadium.

Funerals were conducted this morning for Cynthia Anne Atherton, 13, in Central City; April Mills, 15, in Fernandina Beach, Fla.; and Miss Brewer, who is to be buried in Stuttgart, West Germany.

A memorial service was scheduled at a Fort Knox chapel for Lori Kathleen Holzer, 11, whose body was cremated.

Seven victims were buried Thursday. The remaining funerals are scheduled Saturday and Monday.

The driver of the pickup, Larry W. Mahoney, was in the prison unit of Humana Hospital-University of Louisville. A hospital spokeswoman said Mahoney’s family refused to allow release of information about his condition.

Two more school bus accidents were reported elsewhere Thursday. In Harrisburg, Pa., a bus overturned on a curve and plunged down an embankment, injuring 60 people returning from a church outing, and in Albion, Iowa, more than 20 fifth-graders were hurt in a crash, authorities said.

No one was killed in either accident. Officials said most of the injuries apparently were bruises, cuts and broken bones.

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