ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – At least one person is dead after a double-decker Megabus carrying about 64 passengers slammed head-on into a concrete bridge support pillar in Montgomery County, Illinois on Thursday.
Authorities have identified the deceased victim as 25-year-old Aditi Avhad, who was on her way to the University of Missouri in Columbia.
Illinois State Police is investigating whether a tire blew out to cause the bus to slam into a concrete pillar supporting an overpass on southbound Interstate 55 at mile marker 57, located just north of Litchfield.
Illinois State Police Trooper Doug Francis said 30 ambulances and five medical helicopters were sent to the scene.
Officials confirmed 22 patients were taken to St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield. Most of them had moderate fractures, according to hospital officials.
Sue Campbell with Memorial Hospital in Springfield said they had received seven patients. Four of them were released by Friday morning.
Officials said Stauton Community Hospital recieved six victims, all of which have been released.
Eight patients were transported to Hillsboro Area Hospital. None of those patients were in critical condition, officials said.
Authorities said one person was taken by air to Barnes-Jewish hospital in critical condition, which was downgraded to serious condition late Thursday night.
A 24-year-old man was airlifted to St. Louis University Hospital, where he remains in serious condition with multiple fractures.
Officials said two additions victims - an 11-year-old and 7-year-old - were at Children's Hospital after suffering multiple fractures, according to hospital officials.
SkyZoom 4 cameras showed numerous emergency vehicles surrounding the bus and rescue crews climbing ladders to reach inside its crumpled front end.
Some passengers could be seen being tended to along the side of Interstate 55, which was shut down in both directions for a majority of the day. Both lanes were back open by about 5:30 p.m.
Other emergency crews set up a triage in the median of the highway to treat injured passengers.
Most of the victims’ conditions were not immediately clear.
Megabus spokeswoman Amanda Byers said 81 passengers were booked to ride the discount charter bus, which was on its way to St. Louis from Chicago. It was scheduled to then go to Kansas City.
Zaq Hall, who was riding the bus, said everyone was helping each other after the wreck. He said two people were pinned on the top level and the driver was trapped on the bottom.
Hall mentioned he had been on a Megabus two days prior that also blew a tire.
About 36 passengers from the bus were taken on two school buses from the crash site to the community center in Litchfield, said Janis Johns, transportation director of Litchfield Community Unit School District 12. The school district sent a third school bus to the crash site, but it wasn’t needed, Johns said.
“It was very warm out there,” she said, and some crash survivors were overheated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.