What began as a routine interstate bus trip ended in a disastrous bus accident for dozens of passengers. A Megabus which left Chicago bound for St. Louis slammed into a concrete bridge support which stood next to Interstate 55.
Shortly after 1:15pm, the double-decker Megabus was southbound on I-55 near the city of Litchfield, Illinois. According to police, the bus left the roadway and began driving through the center median before crashing into the bridge support. The bus was carrying 72 passengers and two drivers when the bus crashed about 60 miles northeast of St. Louis.
It took two hours to extricate the driver and four of the passengers. Six passengers had to be airlifted by helicopter to nearby hospitals in serious condition, and at least four-dozen other passengers sustained severe personal injuries of some type. One 25-year old woman, a native of India who was pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Missouri, died at the scene of the Megabus accident giving rise to a wrongful death bus accident claim. Company officials said her parents were also on board though the extent of their injuries remains unknown.
Right now, authorities believe that the bus accident was caused by a blown right rear tire, which sent the bus veering out of control. As a bus accident attorney, we have handled cases involving negligent maintenance of trucks that results in crashes and injury. See Madison County Illinois Bus accident. Megabus officials said Friday they are working with state and federal investigators to determine whether all safety protocols were followed in the accident. The blue double-decker vehicle, built in 2011, passed a full preventive maintenance check less than a week ago, company spokesman Ronald Hauser said. He would not say whether the driver performed an inspection before leaving Chicago the morning of the accident. Such an inspection is required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of all commercial interstate drivers.
Even if it is determined that the tire separation was the cause of the Megabus accident, the driver and Megabus may still be held responsible for the passenger injuries and the wrongful death of the grad student. That's because by law, drivers are responsible for maintaining the safety of their vehicles (including adequate tire pressure), and bus companies are responsible for the actions of their drivers.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2009 alone, over 20,000 people were injured and another 254 were killed nationwide in accidents involving buses. Because of their immense size and weight, buses can be particularly dangerous when involved in accidents with smaller passenger vehicles.
This recent incident was the fifth fatal accident for Megabus in the past two years, according to the Department of Transportation. In February, a Megabus driver was acquitted of homicide charges for the deaths of four passengers when his double-decker bus crashed into a low overpass in upstate New York back in 2010.
Megabus drivers have been cited for speeding 35 times in the past two years, including 14 occasions where the driver was traveling more than 15 mph over the speed limit. During those same two years, a driver was cited for failure to inspect or use emergency equipment, six buses were cited for no or defective emergency doors and more than 50 citations were issued for failure to properly log a driver's time on duty.
Sadly, the problem is not limited to Megabus. The Department of Transportation moved earlier this year to shut down 26 bus companies operating in the Northeast after declaring them "imminent hazards to public safety."
For information on how to protect your legal rights if you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a bus or truck accident, call one of our St. Louis accident attorneys today at 1-314-863-0500.
Source: "Megabus pledges cooperation in crash investigation," by Marlon Walker, published at STLToday.com.
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