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Fatal Illinois Bus Accident May Be Linked to Equipment Failure

On August 2, a double-decker Megabus carrying 70 passengers was headed from Chicago to St. Louis when the front, left tire blew and hit a bridge support column in southern Illinois. The new, young driver, with his trainer aboard, was praised for how he handled the emergency situation.

Unfortunately, the bus accident claimed one victim, a graduate student in health care administration who was accompanied by her parents. She was sitting toward the front of the upper level at the time of the impact.

Many of the other passengers were injured and were treated in area hospitals. Lucky to have survived, the driver suffered facial and foot injuries. He has had three surgeries and will have another, but plans to return to his job when he recovers.

Although the trainer did not have time to advise the driver what to do, the driver handled the situation as well as he could have and probably saved lives, according to state police investigators.

In his first interview, which was with the Chicago Tribune, the driver said that he did not brake, but rather coasted, in an attempt keep the bus from flipping over. Double-decker busses have higher centers of gravity.

However, he could not turn the wheels, so he gripped the steering wheel hard to maintain control. Despite his efforts, the bus veered left, into a guardrail and the median, hitting the concrete pillar.

Government officials are investigating what happened, especially with the "left front steer tire and electrical components," apparently because of the wheels locking up and preventing control of the bus' direction.

Because of this bus crash, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a national bulletin with specific safety advice about double-deck bus weight limits, weight distribution and tire pressure.

Reportedly the bus company said that the bus in the accident was newer, having been made in 2011, and recently had a satisfactory inspection. The driver had a clear driving record and was only given two minor, administrative, inconsequential citations in the accident.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Tire blowout blamed for fatal Megabus crash" Jon Hilkevitch, Aug. 30, 2012

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