A Chicago woman’s trip to Tennessee with her young son took a little longer than expected after the Megabus carrying them and about 68 other people overturned Saturday on Interstate 65 near Seymour.
Ladana Anderson was still shaken up several hours after the accident as she waited at Seymour Middle School along with the 68 or so passengers that had been on the bus. They were waiting to catch another bus to continue their travels. No one was seriously injured in the wreck, reported at 5:26 a.m. just north of the Jonesville exit.
Twenty-six passengers sought medical treatment at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, and 24 had been released as of 5 p.m. Saturday, according to Indiana State Trooper Matt Holley’s report. Injuries ranged from a broken collarbone to scrapes and bruises.
Anderson’s 2-year-old son was pinned under other passengers when the bus overturned, she said.
“I’ve calmed down, but I was crying a lot,” she said. “He’s pretty shaken up because we stood outside for about an hour and 30 minutes in the snow.”
The 25-year-old said they were on their way to Tennessee to spend time with family for the holidays when she felt the bus fishtail. They were sitting on the second level of the bus.
“You could tell the bus driver lost control,” Anderson said. “We went toward the right; and it seemed like he regained control for a while; then he went to the left, and the bus turned over on its side.”
Anderson’s son was pinned under several people until a woman reached down and pulled him out. He also hit his head before they escaped through a window.
“Everybody was like, ‘Lets get out of here.’ We all kind of pulled together — just in time for the holidays,” she said.
The driver of the bus, Christopher Kelley, 50, of Olympia Fields, Illinois, was driving south in the inside lane of the interstate and was moving into the right lane when he lost control, Holley reported. There was light snow at the time and temperatures were below freezing. The bus slid off the road and into a grassy median before turning over on the driver’s side.
Passengers and police helped everyone get off safely, and the injured were taken to Schneck while the uninjured were taken to the middle school.
Kelley complained of back pain but refused medical treatment. Co-driver Phillip A. Brown of Park Forrest, Illinois, was not injured.
The Megabus had left Chicago about midnight and stopped in Indianapolis before continuing with planned stops in Louisville, Kentucky, and Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Holley said some of the passengers came from the Chicago area while others were from the Atlanta area.
Traffic was limited in both directions on the interstate for the more than two hours it took to remove the bus from the median and clean up the crash site.
Roger Wheeler, supervisor for Jackson County Emergency Medical Services, said initially it was thought a pregnant passenger was the most seriously injured on the bus. She had a head laceration and was going to be transferred to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
It was later determined that woman was hurt in one of the many other accidents reported during a two- to three-hour period in the area Saturday morning. At least 10 of those wrecks were reported in the Seymour area, most along Interstate 65.
Wheeler said he brought four patients to Schneck in one ambulance and a second ambulance had six. Jennings County’s Rescue 20 also sent two ambulances to help.
Sean Hughes, Megabus North American associate director of corporate affairs, said Megabus officials were assisting Indiana State Police with the investigation.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved,” Hughes said in a news release. “Safety is our absolute number one priority.”
The uninjured passengers were taken by school bus and emergency vehicles to Seymour Middle School where the American Red Cross provided food, drinks and any other assistance passengers needed.
They spent several hours waiting on another Megabus to arrive, so they could be on their way. A bus was sent from Cincinnati to take anyone who wanted to return to Chicago while a second was sent from Nashville to take those who wanted to continue on their way south, Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said.
“It’s sort of like an airport in here,” Superintendent Robert Hooker said of the school’s entrance way and cafeteria.
Some passengers were lying on the floor with their cellphones plugged into the walls, and others sat at tables listening to music on their headphones.
Hooker said Seymour schools and the Red Cross have an agreement to assist each other when local emergencies happen.
“We’ll stay open for as long as they need,” Hooker said Saturday.
Custodians, cooks and emergency personnel including Jackson County Emergency Management officials made sure the environment was comfortable.
Passengers were offered food, water and coffee as well as art supplies for kids to keep busy.
Amanda Blackburn, Scipio, who oversees disaster preparedness for American Red Cross District 8, said she had six volunteers helping the passengers.
One task for the volunteers was to reunite passengers with their luggage. The damaged Megabus was brought to the middle school for passengers to claim their belongings. Seymour police officers spent the morning ferrying passengers, who had been released from the hospital to the middle school, so they could wait for the replacement bus.
Xudong Zheng, a 27-year-old student from Chicago, said the assistance from the Red Cross, police and the school was well-organized, adding he was grateful for the help.
Zheng was on his way to Nashville from Chicago to see his girlfriend when he said the bus ride became bumpy.
Those who were sleeping woke up and some even shouted before the double-decker landed on its side, he said.
Bodies were pressed against each other and on top of one another before Zheng said many started to exit through a top window. Some were trapped until emergency personnel arrived, he said.
The mishap caused him to miss a movie date with his girlfriend Saturday, but he said that was fine considering he was not injured.
“We can catch it tomorrow,” he said.
Rick Nieto, 45, of Chicago, said he had been asleep until shortly before the crash.
“A passenger was screaming when the bus fishtailed, and I think that’s what woke me up,” said Nieto who was traveling to Nashville to visit friends for the holidays.
Nieto praised everyone who helped the stranded passengers.
“The police, school officials, everyone has just been super,” he said.