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Illinois Megabus crash: Now come the safety questions

August 03, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • A Megabus is pulled away from a bridge support Thursday evening on southbound I-55 north of Litchfield, Ill.
A Megabus is pulled away from a bridge support Thursday evening on southbound… (J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT…)

Federal officials said on Friday that they will work with local authorities to see if there are safety implications in the Illinois bus crash that killed one and injured at least 38 passengers.

On Thursday, a double-decker Megabus hit an overpass support on Interstate 55, near Litchfield, Ill., about 55 miles from St. Louis. Officials are investigating the cause of the crash, though a blown tire is suspected.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is aware of the incident and will work with local authorities who are investigating the crash to determine if there are safety implications that merit agency action,” the agency said in an e-mail to reporters.

Bus safety is one of the National Transportation Safety Board’s 10 priorities, according to its website. But the focus is on getting adequate standards for the strength of materials and a protected seating area.

“Motorcoaches are among the safest vehicles on the road; they are rarely involved in highway accidents,” the National Transportation Safety Board notes.“However, motorcoaches transport 750 million passengers annually, with each bus carrying a substantial number of people. Therefore, when something does go wrong, more people are at risk of death or injury.”

The National Transportation Safety Board notes in a special reporton its website that travel by bus is among the safest forms of travel in the U.S. Of the 41,000 highway fatalities in 1998, it says, nine were school bus passengers and four were motorcoach passengers.

The bus involved in Thursday’s crash was made by a Belgian company in 2011 and “had passed a full preventative maintenance check within the past week,” the company, Megabus, said in a statement.

The bus was traveling from Chicago to Columbia, Mo., then to Kansas City, Mo.

The dead passenger was identified as University of Missouri student Aditi R. Avhad, 25, a native of Mumbai, India.

At least 38 people — nearly half of those on the bus — were taken to hospitals and at least five were transported by helicopter, officials said.

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Join Michael on Google+. Email: michael.muskal@latimes.com

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