A packed double-decker Megabus slammed into an Illinois interstate bridge support pillar Thursday, hurtling screaming passengers from their seats and leaving at least one person dead and more than three dozen injured, officials said.
Aditi R. Avhad, 24, a native of India, was killed in the crash, Illinois State Police Trooper Brad Lemarr said late Thursday. Lemarr said she was headed to Columbia, Mo., but he didn’t know where she was currently living or from where she was traveling. Authorities also did not know where she was seated on the bus, which was traveling between Chicago and Kansas City.
Trooper Doug Francis said 38 people were taken to hospitals for injuries from the crash, which left the bus sitting with its crumpled front end smashed up against the bridge support. Rescue crews climbed ladders to reach those trapped inside, while others tended to injuries along the side of Interstate 55.
“There was a lot of screaming and crying,” said 16-year-old passenger Baysha Collins, of Minneapolis, who was traveling to St. Louis to visit relatives. “There was blood everywhere. I was just in shock.”
Megabus spokeswoman Amanda Byers said the bus was at full capacity, carrying 81 passengers, when it crashed near Litchfield, about 55 miles northeast of St. Louis. It left from Chicago and was to stop in St. Louis and Columbia, Mo., before arriving in Kansas City.
“We don’t know what happened,” Francis said. “Somebody reported to us it was a blown tire, but we haven’t confirmed that yet.”
The trooper said 33 people were taken by ambulance to hospitals, two were flown by helicopter to St. Louis hospitals and three were flown by helicopter to a hospital in Springfield, Ill. He did not know their conditions.
Memorial Medical Center spokesman Michael Leathers said late Thursday that seven people were being treated at the hospital, but he declined to reveal their conditions.
Paula Endress, spokeswoman for St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield, said 22 people were brought to the hospital for treatment, with two of them admitted due to bone fractures. She said none of the injuries were life threatening.
In St. Louis, Barnes Jewish Hospital spokeswoman Liz Kalicak said two patients, one in serious, the other in fair condition, were being treated. A 24-year-old man was being treated for multiple fractures at Saint Louis University Hospital. The hospital spokeswoman would not release his condition.
School buses took about 36 passengers from the crash site to the community center in Litchfield, said Janis Johns, transportation director of Litchfield Community Unit School District 12. The passengers were either uninjured or mildly injured and included some children, Johns said.
Collins, who was among those at the community center, was on the upper deck of the Megabus resting when, “all of a sudden, I heard a big boom. It felt like the wheel was skidding. It felt like the bus was going to tip over.”
The teenager said that when the bus struck the pillar, she flipped out of her seat and landed on a stairway leading to the lower deck. Collins said she could hear people in the front of the bus moaning and crying.
By evening, many of the uninjured passengers already had been taken by bus from the community center to St. Louis. Others were picked up by relatives, including 27-year-old Megan Arns of St. Charles, Mo., a St. Louis suburb. Her parents made the 70-mile trip to get her.