1 dead in downstate Illinois Megabus crash

August 2, 2012 (LITCHFIELD, Ill.)

Thursday night, investigators were still trying to figure out exactly what caused the Megabus to slam into an interstate bridge support pillar.

State police say a blown tire may be to blame.

The bus was headed for Kansas City when it crashed on I-55 near Litchfield, about 55 miles from St. Louis, Thursday afternoon.

The Megabus company, which says more than 70 passengers were onboard the bus, has released statements saying that that bus was manufactured in 2011 and that just within the past week it passed a full preventive maintenance check.

As far as those that were injured, there were dozens of them. About 38 people who had to be treated at hospitals all the way from St. Louis to Springfield and Thursday night at least nine people remain hospitalized. Most of them are right here in Springfield at the Memorial Medical Center.

It was a horrific and deadly bus crash.

State police say the woman who was killed, 25-year-old Aditi R Avhad from India, was riding on the upper deck, right above the driver.

"It sounded like he hit something really big and then you could hear the tire blow out and he lost control of the bus a little bit, and the we swerved into the middle of the road," one of the bus passengers said.

The crash happened about 1:20 Thursday afternoon on southbound I-55, just north of the Litchfield exit.

"It felt like we were going to tip over," the passenger said. "He was trying to regain control of the bus. He regained control, but slammed just right into the gigantic concrete post."

Rescuers clamored to save passenger after passenger, hoisting ladders to the upper deck.

Five people were airlifted and another 33 were transported in ambulances.

"There were several victims," said Capt. Scott Compton of the Illinois State Police. "We set up a triage unit, along with the fire department and EMS personnel. It was a very large scene."

State police say they will lock the bus up for now and thoroughly examine it as part of the investigation.

At this point, authorities say a tire may have blown up, causing the driver to lose control, and slam into the concrete column.

"I just felt a really huge impact and when I came to my senses it was just people in the aisles, in the medians," said Zaq Hall. "Most people had blood on them somewhere. A lot of people -- there's a man who couldn't move from the neck down. There was a man who had his head stuck into between the two seats in front of him. I could hear screams from pain at the top level of the bus."

The bus was heading from Chicago, and onto Missouri, with scheduled stops in St. Louis, Columbia, and Kansas City.

The hospitals are not releasing the exact conditions of those patients, but Illinois State Police said that most of those who are still in the hospital are in critical condition.

The driver was in surgery but his injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

The other passengers who were not injured were taken to the Litchfield Community Center and the company has helped them make it to their final destinations.

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