A woman riding near the front of a Megabus was just dozing off when the bus hit the rear of a semitrailer, causing her to fly out of her seat and hit the windshield.
Glass was flying and metal was crunching as the southbound double-decker bus clipped the back of the truck and then skidded into the median along Interstate 65, Amity Fire Chief Jackie Brockman said, recounting what the woman told emergency workers on her way to a southside hospital.
Nineteen of the 63 passengers were injured in the crash, which happened about 3.5 miles north of State Road 252 in Edinburgh. When traffic slowed and stopped, the driver didn’t stop in time and hit the back of a semi. None of the injuries were life-threatening, and most were cuts, bruises and complaints of pain. But some were more severe, including at least one broken leg and three patients taken to trauma centers at hospitals in Indianapolis and Shelbyville, Brockman said.
One passenger, who was wanted on charges in Michigan, was arrested after the crash.
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It’s the second time one of the double-decker buses has crashed in Johnson County in the past six months and the fourth time a Megabus has wrecked in Indiana during that same period.
As part of the ongoing investigation, Indiana State Police will determine whether the string of crashes is due to some sort of operational problems with Megabus or if the frequency is merely a coincidence, Trooper John Perrine said. Two previous accidents on I-65 were caused by another vehicle in the road and snowy weather conditions.
Rear-end accidents are common when traffic on a highway or interstate suddenly slows or stops and drivers can’t react in time, Perrine said. A Megabus that wrecked on the Indiana Toll Road in northwest Indiana crashed because the driver couldn’t stop in time and hit a line of vehicles that had stopped for an earlier crash.
“We will definitely look into it to see if there is any correlation. It’s been strictly coincidence at this point; it’s been three different factors. Obviously if it’s driver error, it’s something we will work to correct. There are several avenues we need to look at,” Perrine said.
Megabus buses traveled about 43 million miles in 2014 and had 22 accidents in the past two years, according to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That’s a lower rate than other bus providers such as Greyhound, which logged 148 million miles but had 128 accidents.
But the Chicago region of Megabus has had the majority of accidents for the company, which is spread out across different regions. Nine accidents occurred in the past two years, while buses covered 8.71 million miles in 2014. The New Jersey region of Megabus also had nine accidents during the two-year span but recorded nearly double the miles traveled, according to federal data.
About 5:30 a.m. Monday, traffic was stopped on I-65 while Indiana State Police were helping construction vehicles move from the right lane into the median, according to a state police news release. The state has been working overnight on pavement repairs and bridge projects at Sugar Creek and Big Blue River between Franklin and Edinburgh.
Traffic was slowed while construction vehicles were moving but had stopped north of there. The Megabus, driven by Kimberly Lane, 50, Dolton, Ill., didn’t stop in time, hitting the back of a Celadon Trucking semi. The impact pushed the semi forward, causing it to hit a sport utility vehicle, which then lurched forward and hit a car.
Lane was given a portable breath test to check for alcohol, which came back negative, state police said. The bus will undergo an inspection this week to check for any mechanical problems that might have contributed to the crash.
None of the drivers in the other vehicles was injured.
Most of the injuries in the crash were minor. Nine people were taken to Johnson Memorial Hospital in Franklin with minor injures and were expected to be treated and released Monday, hospital spokeswoman Casey DeArmitt said. Another three were taken to Franciscan St. Francis Health-Indianapolis with minor injures, spokesman Joe Stuteville said. Four were transported to Columbus Regional Hospital, two went to Major Hospital in Shelbybville, and one person was taken to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
“Injuries ranged from simple cuts and bruising, minor type of stuff. We had one person they transported to Methodist and two to the trauma unit in Shelby county. One gentleman had at least one broken leg,” Brockman said.
Edinburgh Fire Department transported three patients to Columbus, two with leg and knee pain and one person who had some minor chest pain after the crash, Edinburgh Fire Chief Allen Smith said.
The rest of the passengers were put onto other buses and driven to Indianapolis. But shortly after the passengers started the trip back to Chicago, their bus was stopped by Indiana State Police so a passenger wanted on a warrant out of Michigan could be arrested. The man was arrested shortly before noon, but Perrine didn’t know what the man was charged with or how Michigan police knew he was on the bus. He was not one of the passengers injured in the crash, Perrine said.
Monday’s crash is the second on I-65 in Johnson County with a Megabus. In mid-October, a northbound bus carrying about 60 people hit the rear of a car that was pulled off the road then tipped onto its side and slid about 200 feet into the median. Nineteen people were injured in the October crash. Most of the injuries were minor. The most severe injury was a woman whose arm got pinned under the bus after her window broke in the crash.
Both Johnson County crashes were on the same Megabus route, which runs from Chicago to Atlanta. Megabus has two buses per day that run through Johnson County on that route; southbound buses leaving Chicago either at 9:30 a.m. or midnight and northbound buses set to arrive in Chicago either at 7:30 p.m. or 5:30 a.m, according to the company’s website.
Less than two weeks after the first I-65 crash, a Megabus wrecked in northwest Indiana. Another bus tipped onto its side on the icy interstate north of Seymour in December.
Megabus director of corporate affairs Sean Hughes confirmed one of the company’s buses was involved in the accident Monday morning and said the company will cooperate with the accident investigation.
“Safety is our number one priority, and Megabus is fully cooperating with the authorities with their investigation into the incident,” Hughes said in a company statement.
The company operates more than 300 buses and has about 700 drivers, and buses traveled more than 43 million miles in 2014, according to federal data. Megabus travels to more than 120 major cities and has provided rides to more than 40 million passengers since 2006, according to the company.
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Four Megabus buses have crashed in Indiana in the past six months, including three on Interstate 65 south of Indianapolis. Here’s what happened during each crash:
When: 4:30 a.m. Oct. 14
Location: Northbound I-65, about 1 mile south of Main Street
What happened: Bus clipped the rear of a car parked on the side of the road, tipped over onto its side and slid into the median.
Number of passengers: About 60
Number injured: 19
When: 5:26 a.m. Dec. 20
Location: Southbound I-65, north of Jonesville exit 55
What happened: Driver lost control while changing lanes, causing the bus to slide into the median, where it tipped over. Light snow was falling at the time.
Number of passengers: About 70
Number injured: 26
When: About 12:30 p.m. Dec. 20
Location: Indiana Toll Road, near Hammond
What happened: The bus didn’t slow down in time and hit vehicles that were backed up on the highway.
Number of passengers: 80
Number of injuries: None
When: About 5:30 a.m. April 13
Location: Southbound I-65, about 3.5 miles north of State Road 252
What happened: Front right of the bus hit the left rear of a semitrailer when traffic suddenly slowed to a stop on the interstate.
Number of passengers: 63
Number of injured: 19