LITCHFIELD, IL (KPLR) - A woman was killed Thursday’s Mega Bus crash near Litchfield, Illinois. Illinois State Police have identified her as 25-Year-Old, Aditi R. Avhad, of India. More than two-dozen others were injured after a Mega Bus, traveling from Chicago to St. Louis, crashed violently just north of Litchfield, Illinois. The crash happened about 1:20 Thursday afternoon on Interstate 55 when the bus blew a tire, then careened into a concrete bridge support.
“You could hear the tire blow out and lost control of the bus a little bit,” passenger Megan Arns said, “and we swerved into the middle of the road. And you could see the huge concrete post of the overpass.”
Then they smashed head on into the bridge.
“I just felt a really huge impact and when I came to my senses, it was just people in the aisles and the medians,” another man on the bus, Zach Hall said. “Most people had blood on them somewhere. There was a man who couldn’t move from the neck down. There was a man who had his head stuck between the seats in front of him. I could hear screams of pain from the top level of the bus.”
Several helicopters were brought in with at least four people air lifted to area trauma centers. At least eighteen ambulances arrived on the scene, transporting the remainder of the more than two dozen injured.
Six victims were transported Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, IL, four flown by helicopter. Five victims, including a 4-5 year old girl, were taken to Staunton with non-life threatening injuries. One with more serious injuries was diverted from Staunton to another hospital.
Two victims were sent to Barnes Jewish Hospital, one airlifted and one on the ground. A 24-year-old male victim was air-lifted to St. Louis University with multiple fractures. He is being stabilized in the ER. Both SLU Hospital and Barnes Jewish Hospital are level 1 trauma centers.
Ten victims were sent to a hospital in Carlinville, IL with non-life threatening injuries.
Others were brought by school buses to the Litchfield Community Center.
Michael Martin arrived after being released from a hospital in Litchfield.
“I was asleep and then I woke up and people was bloody. That’s all I know,” he said.
He said he was seated near the woman who died.
“Yes I was sitting by her. Like two seats, three seats behind her. I pretty much know which woman it is too.”
Hall, who was returning to his home in Kansas City from Chicago, said it was the second time in three days he’d been on a Mega Bus that had a blowout. He says the same thing happened Tuesday when he was headed for the Windy City.
“The sound was the same. The effect was the same but the bus just veered and regained control and pulled off to the side of the road.”
It certainly makes him wonder about safety and the Mega Bus line.
“I don’t want to jump to any conclusions but I can’t help but feel this could have been prevented.”
Everyone on board certainly wishes that had been the case. Arns, from St. Charles, was returning home from a year long stay in Amman, Jordon. Her parents, she says, had finally stopped worrying when she was on U.S. soil. The Mega Bus trip was the last leg of the journey.
“After living in the Middle East for a year, I’m an hour away from home, it’s just insane. I can’t imagine.”
She also found irony in a conversation she and another passenger had had minutes before the crash. They had noticed what appeared to be new seat belts on the double-decker motor coach.
“I’ve never been on a big coach bus with seatbelts before I don’t think. And I was not wearing mine and I don’t think most others were either,” she said.
By evening, more passengers were getting out of the hospital and filtering through Litchfield’s community center. Among them, Martin, who still hadn’t gotten over the sensation of waking up in a hospital with news of the crash he’d survived on television.
“I was in shock so….I was happy to be alive. I saw it on the news. I don’t want to be in nothing like that again. Nobody should go through nothing like that, ever.”
The Federal National Transportation Safety says people aboard curb side buses were 7 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than those in regular passenger buses. They also said drivers for curb side buses tended to suffer from fatigue and they tended to speed more.
I-55 has now been opened in both directions.