A light sheet of ice and speed may have led to a Megabus overturning on southbound Interstate 65 near Seymour, leaving several passengers injured and others stranded for several hours.
The double-decker bus, carrying about 70 passengers, slid off the road and rolled into the median at about 5:26 a.m. at the Jonesville exit, Indiana State Police said.
Ladana Anderson, a Chicago resident traveling to Nashville, was still shaken up several hours after the accident.
Her 2-year-old son had been pinned under other passengers when the bus overturned, Anderson said, as she waited at Seymour Middle School with other passengers.
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“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. She and her son were sitting on the second level of the bus.
“You could tell the bus driver lost control,” Anderson said. “We went towards the right, and it seemed like he regained control for awhile then he went to the left, and the bus turned over on its side.”
Anderson’s son was pinned under several people until a lady reached down and pulled him out. He also hit his head before escaping 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 Megabus left Chicago at about midnight and had stopped in Indianapolis before continuing with planned stops in Louisville, Kentucky and Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The bus company told police the Megabus also had two drivers on board. The driver who was operating the bus was not injured, according to Indiana State Police. All lanes of the interstate were closed for about two hours to remove the bus from the median and clean up the crash site, Indiana State Police said.
About 27 passengers were taken to Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, but there were no serious injuries, said Stephanie Furlow, Schneck’s director of marketing.
Roger Wheeler, supervisor for Jackson County Emergency Medical Services, said a pregnant passenger was the most seriously injured. She had a head laceration and was going to be transferred to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
“Most were what I would call the walking wounded,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said he brought four patients to the hospital in one ambulance and a second ambulance had six. Jennings County 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.
State Trooper Matt Holley said speed combined with wintry weather conditions likely led to the crash. There were several other accidents, mainly along the interstate, around the same time in Jackson County.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved,” Hughes said in a news release. “Safety is our absolute number one priority.”
Passengers including Anderson and her son, who weren’t severely injured, were transported by school bus and emergency vehicles to Seymour Middle School. 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.
“It’s sort of like an airport in here,” Superintendent Robert Hooker said of the school’s entrance way and cafeteria.
Some passengers were reclining across 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 of 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.
The incident is the second local crash involving a Megabus since October. The first happened Oct. 14 near Greenwood when a passenger bus originating from Atlanta struck a car that had been pulled to the side of I-65, triggering a chain reaction that injured 19 people.