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State police: Blown tire likely caused Megabus crash

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Updated: September 5, 2012 6:05AM

SPRINGFIELD — The State Police said Friday a blown tire appears to have caused Thursday’s Megabus crash near Downstate Litchfield that killed a University of Missouri graduate student from India and sent 47 passengers to hospitals.

Police also said the investigation could take weeks to complete but that driver error appears not to have contributed to the company’s second fatal crash since 2010.

In a statement, Megabus said Friday the bus that crashed “had passed a full preventative maintenance check — including tires — within the past week. Maintenance checks are performed . . . approximately every 10 days.”

The packed, double-decker bus veered off Interstate 55, into a median and head-on into a concrete overpass pillar.

A police spokesman said investigators had not determined yet whether triple-digit heat at the time of the crash might have contributed to a blowout nor the approximate speed at which the bus hit the pillar.

The State Police are in charge of the investigation after the National Transportation Safety Board chose not to take a lead role.

“We have been in contact with the NTSB, and they’ll make a determination if they want to come down and inspect the bus. It’s kind of up to them at this point,” said Capt. Scott Compton, a police spokesman.

NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said his agency is “monitoring” the crash and willing to offer “technical assistance” but has not opened a formal investigation.

The bus, carrying 81 passengers, had been headed from Chicago to Kansas City, Mo., with stops in St. Louis and Columbia, Mo.

Barely halfway through the first leg of its trip, the bus slammed head-on into the concrete bridge support near Litchfield, about 55 miles northeast of St. Louis, killing Aditi R. Avhad, 25, a native of Mumbai, India, who was a graduate student in health administration at the University of Missouri. The accident also injured at least half those on board.

Avhad was on the bus with both of her parents, who are from India, Compton said.

The Illinois Department of Transportation inspected the bridge that the bus struck and determined that the crash caused no structural problems in the bridge supports, an IDOT spokesman said Friday.

“Only minor scratches were found along the concrete median pier,” agency spokesman Josh Kauffman said. “The bridge was determined to be safe and was reopened to traffic soon afterwards.”

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