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Megabus cites safety rating during Illinois bus crash probe

State police and federal transportation officials are trying to discover what caused a double-decker bus to crash into a bridge support near Litchfield in southern Illinois. The mass transit accident in early August killed a 25-year-old university student and injured nearly half of the more than 80 people on board.

Investigators are searching for the possibility of driver negligence, a careless bus operator or a poorly made vehicle. Megabus, a Coach USA subsidiary, claimed its wrecked coach was built by a Belgium manufacturer in 2011 and passed a maintenance inspection just days before the bus accident.

Some of the accident victims believe one of the bus's tires may have blown just before the vehicle smashed into an overpass. More than three dozen people were hospitalized including the bus driver who police said suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Five crash victims were flown to medical facilities by helicopter.

Three dozen bus passengers who were slightly injured or unhurt were transported to a Litchfield community center, where some met relatives. Others were taken 55 miles south to St. Louis. The bus trip began in Chicago and was on the way to Kansas City, Missouri.

Some bus accident survivors recalled hearing a loud boom and feeling that the vehicle ran over something really, really big. Victims remembered passengers flying through the air and emergency personnel climbing ladders to reach the injured because the front end of the vehicle was crushed.

Megabus officials appeared to deflect responsibility for the crash even before investigators could point fingers of blame in their direction. Several fatal motor coach accidents have occurred on U.S. roads in the last few years, including a 2010 Megabus crash that killed four people in New York.

The bus line released a statement saying its company carried the highest federal safety rating possible. Bus drivers, manufacturers and operators found at fault can be criminally charged. They may also face civil for wrongful death and damages due to negligence.

Source: newser.com, "Company: Bus in fatal Illinois highway crash was made last year, passed inspection days ago," Jim Salter, Aug. 3, 2012

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