CARROLLTON, Ky. -- A bus taking teenagers home from a church outing collided headon with a pickup truck going the wrong way Saturday night and burst into flames, killing at least 18 teenagers and injuring 20 more, police said.
The bus was returning from Kings Island Amusement Park near Cincinnati with teenagers from the First Assembly of God Church in Radcliff, Ky., when it collided with the pickup on Interstate 71 at about 10:55 p.m. and caught fire.
'There are 18 confirmed deaths and 20 are critically injured. There were 67 people on the bus,' said Kentucky State Police Capt. John Lile in Frankfort.
The bus, with the bodies still inside, was taken to a Kentucky Army National Guard armory in Carrollton, where a temporary morgue was established. None of the victims were immediately identified.
The accident happened on Interstate 71 in Carroll County about 75 miles northeast of Louisville. Radcliff is about 30 miles southwest of Louisville, near Fort Knox.
A spokeswoman at Humana Hospital University of Louisville said at least eight teenagers were being treated early Sunday for multiple injuries, including burns. The injured were taken to several Louisville hospitals in addition to Humana.
Trooper Jim Mudd, a 24-year veteran of the state police force, said the bus was so badly burned it was hard to recognize as a bus.
'When you step up to it and look into the bus you can see as to what magnitude, from the bodies, that was disastrous.'
'There was the scent of burned flesh in the air. It was too graphic to really describe,' said Mudd.
The trooper said it was 'just totally unexplained' how the pickup was headed the wrong way. 'He collided more or less head on.'
Police said the pickup was traveling northbound in the southbound lane and was driven by Larry Mahoney, 34, of Worthville, Ky.
Mahoney survived the accident, but was unconscious in critical condition at a Louisville hospital.
No charges had been filed early Sunday.
A woman who answered the telephone at the church, located about 30 miles southwest of Louisville, asked that the line be kept clear for police and for bus passengers to call in.
Saturday night's accident near Carrollton, Ky., that killed 27 people was among the worst bus disasters in U.S. history. Others include:
-32 killed Sept. 17, 1963, when a makeshift bus carrying migrant workers was hit by a freight train at Chualar, Calif.
-28 killed, 23 injured May 21, 1976, when a bus crashed into a guard rail approaching the Benecia-Martinez Bridge, east San Francisco Bay.
-27 killed, several injured on Feb. 28, 1958, when a school bus plunged into the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River in Floyd County, Ky. The accident, which happened during the morning, killed 26 children and the bus driver.
-27 killed, 15 injured March 14, 1940, in a truck-passenger train collision in McAllen, Texas.
-24 killed Dec. 1, 1938, in a school bus-train collision in Salt Lake City, Utah.
-21 pasengers fatally injured May 30, 1986, when a tour bus of elderly people plunged into the Walker River in central California near the Nevada border.
-20 killed, 13 injured June 5, 1980, when a speeding chartered tourist bus went out of control near Jasper, Ark.