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CHICAGO (STMW) - Two college students and a Chicago family have now filed lawsuits against Megabus over this month’s fatal crash downstate, when a double-decker vehicle blew a tire and crashed into a pillar on Interstate 55.
The packed bus carrying 81 passengers slammed into the concrete bridge support pillar Aug. 2 about 55 miles northeast of St. Louis, officials said at the time. Forty-seven people were hurt, and 25-year-old Aditi R. Avhad, 25, a native of Mumbai, India, and a graduate student in health administration at the University of Missouri, was killed.
Jamie Schultz, a DePaul University student, lives in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and was on her way to visit family in St. Louis when she was hurt in the crash, according to her attorney Michael Krzak.
Schultz, 19, was sitting on the bus when she was struck by the seat in front of her, then suffered severe emotional distress after seeing the woman in front of her killed, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court.
Columbia College student Lewis Vaughn IV, a 24-year-old Detroit native, was also aboard at the time of the crash, his attorney Joseph Power said Tuesday. The collision left him with two broken legs, fractures to his arm, hip and pelvis, and a crushed ankle and heel.
His lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court, along with a separate suit filed by a Chicago family hurt while traveling on the bus with two small children.
Mary Jane Klein, her young sons Brandon and Nicholas Eckstein and relative Eleanor Klein were all on their way to visit relatives in St. Louis when they were hurt in the crash, said Power, who is also representing the family in their lawsuit against Megabus.
Nicholas was most seriously hurt, and is left with a broken shoulder, wrist, ankle and leg, Power said.
All three lawsuits accuse Megabus of failing to properly maintain and inspect the bus and its tires. They also blame the driver, Preston Taylor, for not avoiding the collision and driving too fast for conditions.
Illinois State Police said immediately following the crash that a blown tire apparently caused the bus to veer off the roadway, but that a full investigation could take weeks.
Megabus released a statement after the crash saying the bus “had passed a full preventative maintenance check — including tires — within the past week. Maintenance checks are performed . . . approximately every 10 days.”
In a separate statement issued Tuesday, Dale Moser, Megabus.com president, said: “All of our staff at megabus.com are deeply saddened by the incident that took place in Litchfield and our sincere thoughts and prayers go out to those involved. The incident is still under investigation by the authorities and we will continue to lend our support in this investigation.”
Cook County Circuit Court Judge William Maddux entered a protective order Monday after Schultz’s attorneys asked that the bus, as well as all data, video recordings, radio transmissions and cell phone records, driver schedules, logs and employment records, be preserved.
Schultz’s attorneys also asked to inspect and photograph the bus, tires and any component parts within seven days of the protective order.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kathy Flanagan granted a similar protective order Tuesday filed by Vaughn’s attorneys, which also seeks to protect and preserve evidence from the crash.
It was the first of two fatal crashes involving Megabus within a week, prompting Gov. Pat Quinn to urge federal officials to begin a detailed investigation into the company’s history and procedures.
Five days after the downstate crash, a Megabus struck and killed 76-year-old Donna Halstead as the vehicle turned a corner near Chicago’s Union Station.
The lawsuits all claim negligence against Megabus and claim at least $50,000 in damages.
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