Packed double-decker Megabus crashed

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One woman has died after a packed double-decker Megabus crashed into an Illinois interstate bridge, hurling passengers from their seats and resulting in nearly 40 injuries.

Aditi R Avhad, 24, a native of India, was killed in the crash, Illinois state police trooper Brad Lemarr said late Thursday. Lemarr said Avhad was on her way to Columbia, Missouri.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Avhad qualified as a dentist in India and was a graduate student at University of Missouri-Columbia. She also worked as a compliance officer at a student-operated community health clinic at the university. 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, Missouri, 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, Illinois.

A string of crashes involving low-fare buses in recent years has prompted calls for tougher regulation. Four passengers were killed in September 2010 when the driver of a double-decker Megabus smashed into a low bridge outside downtown Syracuse, New York. The driver was acquitted earlier this year of homicide in the deaths.

Fifteen people were killed in May 2011 when a bus swerved off Interstate 95 in New York City and was sliced in two. Two days later, another bus drove off the New Jersey Turnpike and struck a bridge support, killing the driver and a passenger.

Megabus, owned by the British-based Stagecoach group, said in a statement that it is working with law enforcement authorities to investigate the cause of Thursday’s crash. “Safety remains our number one priority,” the statement said. “The thoughts and prayers of our entire staff go out to the passengers involved.”

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 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, Missouri, a suburb of St Louis. Her parents made the 70-mile trip to get her.

Arns was on the top deck of the bus near the back talking to a woman next to her when “all of a sudden it felt like the bus ran over something really, really big.” She said she could feel the bus lose control as it rolled into the median and toward the pillar.

“Absolute panic. People were screaming,” said Arns, who got away with just a scrape on her head.

Arns and 22-year-old Enrique Villaroel of Chicago said passengers began helping each other almost immediately after the wreck. “Panic at first, then total calm,” Villaroel said. “Some people were carrying other people off the bus.”

Villaroel said he also was on the upper level of the bus sleeping when he was awakened by screams. “I flew out of my seat and a little girl flew past me,” he said, adding that the child appeared to be OK and he escaped with a few bruises. – Guardian (uk)