A double-decker passenger bus flipped onto its side on a highway in suburban Indianapolis on Tuesday after apparently swerving to avoid an earlier crash, badly injuring one person and hurting more than a dozen others, officials said.
At least 18 people were taken to area hospitals with various injuries, according to Indiana State Police.
Seven people were transported to Eskaenazi Health with the most serious of their injuries being a broken arm. Seven others were taken to Methodist Hospital and four people were transported to Johnson County Memorial Hospital, each with complaints of pain, contusions and cuts from broken glass, police said.
Thirty-five people were also taken to Johnson County Memorial Hospital by another Megabus for observation and were treated and released.
"They thought they were dead," said Reginald Nola, who had two daughters on the bus. "She had a lot of glass in her leg and her back and she still has pain."
The bus, operated by the Megabus line, was traveling from Atlanta to Chicago, said Sean Hughes, a spokesman for the line's parent company, Coach USA North America. It was carrying between 50 and 60 people when it crashed about 4:30 a.m. on Interstate 65, when the driver apparently tried to avoid the accident that had occurred about 10 minutes earlier, state police Sgt. Shawn O'Keefe said.
"The driver apparently didn't see it because of the rain or something and swerved to avoid it," O'Keefe said. "The bus driver swerved and ended up turning the bus over on its side, and it went into the median."
The roadway was wet from overnight storms and some light rain continued in central Indiana about the time of the crash in Greenwood, a southern Indianapolis suburb.
Greenwood Fire Department Battalion Chief Chris Harrell told reporters at the scene that one person was taken to a hospital in critical condition, while four people had moderate injuries and 14 had minor injuries. He said about 35 uninjured passengers were being taken by a city bus to a nearby hospital as a precaution and to regroup.
Passenger Devin David, 31, of Louisville, Kentucky, said he was half asleep on the bus' upper level when the crash happened.
"I was able to put my head down and brace myself for impact before it turned over," he said. "I felt it swerve, I felt it lose control, so I was able to get down in a pretty safe position."
David said the bus landed on the side where he was sitting and a couple other people fell on top of him. He said one of those passengers hit his head during the crash and he saw others with apparent broken bones and cuts. David said at first many passengers were screaming and crying and it took several minutes for him to get out of the bus, by which time emergency crews had arrived.
Another passenger, Craig Steichen, said he heard a woman screaming for help after she became pinned in the vehicle.
"She was screaming 'Help me, help me,'" Steichen said. "I saw her face down with the seats trapping her in."
Both northbound and southbound lanes of the highway were closed for a time while crews removed the injured people and worked to clear the wreckage. The northbound bus became entangled in the median's cable barrier, which likely prevented a more serious crash, said Harrell, the fire department official.
"They absolutely saved this bus from veering off into the southbound traffic, Harrell said.
Hughes said the trip had two drivers, which is above the federal requirement for overnight trips. The drivers were on duty for a total of 6.5 hours when the incident occurred.
While some passengers remained in area hospitals Tuesday evening, several others arrived back in Chicago shortly after 6 p.m.
"I'm OK, got some ugly injuries, but we made it out alive, that's all that matters," said passenger Dakarai Mosley.
Jessica Jones said her face is scarred from the wreck.
"I actually watched her face just go against the glass, that's how she got all those cuts and she still has fragments of glass in her face," said fellow passenger Brittany McNeil.
Some passengers said they plan to go to hospitals in Chicago for treatment of their injuries.
"My shoulder is broken, it has multiple fractures," said passenger Manu Misra.
Hughes said the company was assisting authorities with the crash investigation and working to help the passengers involved.