On Thursday afternoon, a 25-year-old woman died and 48 people were injured when a double-decker Megabus slammed into the concrete support for a bridge on Interstate 55 in Illinois, USA. Aditi Avhad, an Indian native and graduate of the University of Missouri, was sitting with her parents on the top deck above the driver when the crash happened and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Illinois State Police investigators say there were 78 passengers on the bus, along with the driver and another who was on board for the ride. Ten medical helicopters and 30 ambulances arrived on the scene to tend to several severely injured people. Forty-seven of the passengers were taken to hospitals – some had broken bones and five were flown to St Louis and Springfield for life threatening injuries. One of these five was the driver, whose name remains undisclosed, along with the injuries he went into surgery for.
Litchfield Community Unit School District 12 transportation director Janis Johns says that about 36 of the passengers were taken to the city’s community centre on two school buses. Some of the passengers had suffered mild injuries, while others were unharmed. One of them was a woman on a stretcher, and even some children were taken on the school buses. A third bus was sent to the crash site as well, but it wasn’t used. The school district is located near the highway, and they try to help when they can. She added that the Red Cross was notified and would provide coolers of water.
The Megabus was en route from Chicago to Kansas City when the crash happened at mid-afternoon. Passenger accounts of the crash have painted pictures of screaming passengers, the injured tossed about and the aisles sprayed with blood. Several say they heard a tire blow out right before the collision. Illinois State Police Trooper Doug Francis says a tyre was reported blown, causing the bus to run off the road. However, he noted that the vehicle did stay upright.
Illinois State Police Lieutenant Louis Kink says that the blown out tyre is likely the cause of the crash. At 65mph, controlling such a large vehicle with a blown out tire would be very hard. There’s also no evidence of error on the driver’s part, nor are there any other factors known to have contributed to the collision. The weather was dry and no road construction was going on at that part of the interstate. A final investigation report may take two weeks, he added, and the injured are anticipated to survive.
Amanda Byers, a spokeswoman for Megabus, said that the bus was at full capacity at the time of the crash. The accident happened close to Litchfield, around 55 miles northeast of St Louis. The bus was due to stop in St Louis and Columbia, Missouri en route to Kansas City.
Megabus is a budget bus service owned and operated by Stagecoach Group, which also operates bus and train services in the UK. Megabus claims to have carried over 19 million passengers since its establishment in 2006. The bus involved in Thursday’s accident was only one year old, having been manufactured by Van Hool (a Belgian company) just last year. Byers says all of their buses undergo maintenance checks every ten days – including tyres. The bus that crashed, she added, had passed a full preventative check in the last week.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says Megabus has been given a satisfactory rating. This is the highest rating and means the operator meets all the regulatory requirements. The company says its drivers are required to rest for nine hours between driving duties, and these are stricter policies than what are required under federal regulations. It added that its staff also undergo extensive training in classes and behind the wheel.
This isn’t the only bus crash to involve low-fare buses. In September 2010, a double-decker Megabus slammed into a low bridge near downtown Syracuse, New York – killing four people. Earlier this year, a court cleared the driver of homicide. In May last year, 15 people died when another company’s bus ran off Interstate 95 in NYC and was cut in two. Another bus ran off the Turnpike in New Jersey just two days after, and slammed into the support of a bridge – the driver and a passenger were killed.Author's Google+ page