A woman was killed and dozens of other people injured when a double-decker Megabus bound from Chicago smashed into a concrete pillar of an overpass on Interstate 55 this afternoon, state police say.
The bus, carrying 64 passengers, apparently blew a tire and skidded into the center pillar around 1:20 p.m. near Litchfield, about 60 miles north of St. Louis, police say. As many as half the people on the bus were injured, according to State Police Capt. Scott Compton.
Four to five of the injured were trapped and had to be extricated, including the woman who died, he said.
Television footage from the scene showed crews on ladders reaching inside the smashed front end of the bus. Thirty ambulances and five medical helicopters responded, and I-55 was shut down in both directions from the Carlinville exit to the Litchfield exit.
Compton said he was one of the first on the scene, and many of the passengers were already out of the bus. "Some of them. . .were a little more concerned or acting eratically, but it was relatively calm.
"There were all sorts of injuries, extremities, leg injuries, neck injuries," he said. "And there were several cuts to the heads and the legs and things like that."
Compton said a hard rain in the drought-ravaged area slowed down reconstruction of the crash briefly but "did not impede" extrications.
Authorities said a 24-year-old man was airlifted to St. Louis University Hospital with multiple fractures, and another person was flown to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
Four people were airlifted to Memorial Hospital in Springfield, and another two were taken there by ambulance, according to spokesman Michael Leathers. Their conditions were not known.
Sixteen people were taken to St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield and as many as four more were on the way, officials said. Most of them had moderate fractures, they said.
Three patients were transported to Hillsboro Area Hospital. None of those patients were in critical condition, officials said.
Memorial Hospital in Staunton received five patients, all of them with non-life threatening injuries, according to hospital CEO Sue Campbell. “We’re receiving the less severe injuries – bumps, bruises or possible lacerations,” she said. “Our doctors and nurses are receiving and assessing patients currently.”
Campbell said the hospital anticipates more patients could arrive.
The Litchfield School District sent school buses to transport uninjured people to the community center in the town, about five miles away.
About 36 passengers from the bus were taken on two school buses 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. One woman was brought on a stretcher in the school bus.
The school district sent a third school bus to the crash site but it wasn't needed, Johns said. “We're close to the highway. We try to help out when we can,” Johns said.
The Red Cross will be notified and coolers of water will be provided, she said. “It was very warm out there,” she said, and some crash survivors were overheated.
The bus was on its way to St. Louis from Chicago, then was scheduled to head to Kansas City.