Federal investigators are looking into the cause of a devastating Greyhound bus crash in southern Illinois, which claimed the lives of three passengers. The fatal accident occurred on July 12, 2023, just before 2 a.m. when a Greyhound bus bound for St. Louis collided with three semi-trucks parked near an exit ramp on Interstate 70. Authorities say 22 passengers and a driver were on the bus at the time.
The deceased victims of the Illinois bus accident have been identified as 34-year-old Juan Vasquez-Rodriguez of Passaic, New Jersey; 71-year-old Buford Paya, 71 of Supai, Arizona, and 47-year-old Bradley Donovan of Springfield, Illinois. More than a dozen other people were transported to hospitals to treat their injuries. The occupants of the parked semi-trucks did not sustain any injuries.
The Greyhound bus (a 2014 Prevost motorcoach) was transporting passengers from Indianapolis to St. Louis when, for unknown reasons, it drove onto an exit ramp leading to a rest area in Highland, Illinois. The bus was just minutes from its destination when it violently collided with the parked semi-trucks.
One survivor, Edwin Brown, 22, from Friars Point, Mississippi, told the media that he felt a strong jolt as the bus traversed rumble strips just before the side of the vehicle “opened up like a can opener.” Brown revealed that the Greyhound driver was intermittently losing consciousness after the crash, prompting him to switch off the engine with the help of a trucker.
According to the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents Greyhound drivers, the bus driver remains in serious condition.
What Caused the Illinois Greyhound Crash?
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) dispatched a team to southern Illinois to investigate the cause of the bus crash. These types of investigations typically take over a year to complete.
NTSB officials are expected to be at the crash site for six days. Officials confirmed that the bus was equipped with inward and outward-facing cameras. That footage will be analyzed to aid in the investigation.
Clay Robbins III, a bus accident attorney based in Los Angeles, says the circumstances of the crash, and the description of events from survivors, “may bring driver fatigue and/or driver inattention to the forefront of the investigation.”
“It’s still early in the investigation, but when a bus hits rumble strips and starts heading off the road minutes before it is due to arrive at its destination, that may be due to driver fatigue,” Robbins says. “That said, other issues will also need to be addressed in the crash investigation, like the presence of the trucks on the exit ramp, which is not legal in Illinois.”
At a media briefing on the bus crash outside St. Louis, NTSB member Tom Chapman stressed that the parked trucks would be a crucial element of the investigation. “Rest area safety is one of the things we’ll be looking at closely,” Chapman said. “Certainly, we’ll be looking at the location, the proximity of the parked trucks, such details as the width, the length of the ramp…If recommendations are appropriate, we’ll certainly make them.”
The occurrence of truckers parking along exit ramps is, unfortunately, a common practice due to limited truck parking in public rest areas. Although illegal in Illinois and various other states, law enforcement occasionally overlooks this violation.
Legal cases stemming from this crash may involve culpability for the trucks parking on the side of the road, which may have created a hazardous condition for motorists. If there was not adequate parking for truckers at the rest area, that may factor into the case as well.
Victims of Greyhound Bus Crash Outside St. Louis Identified
Authorities have identified the victims of the fatal crash:
Buford “Buffalo” Paya: Mr. Paya, who was affectionately known as "Buffalo" by friends due to his imposing figure, was a member of the Havasupai Tribe, residing within the Grand Canyon. Departing from this secluded community required either a helicopter ride to the rim or an eight-mile journey on foot or horseback, shared Marian Paya Marshall, Paya's niece from Flagstaff, Arizona.
Nonetheless, Paya would occasionally surprise his family, contacting them from nearby highways and requesting a ride. Perplexed, Marshall would ask her uncle how he got where he was, and Paya would respond with a wild tale, sometimes involving hitchhiking, taking a bus, or simply walking.
Marshall fondly described her uncle as a prankster with a deep love for horses. Buford Paya was 71 years old.
Juan Vasquez-Rodriguez: Mr. Rodriguez was a Passaic, New Jersey resident who left his home country of Peru to seek a better life for himself and his family. A close family friend, Gabriela Benitez, created a GoFundMe page to assist Vasquez-Rodriguez's family in transporting his body back to Peru. Benitez emphasized that no words could console the family in such times, and financial aid would help alleviate their immense grief. Juan Vasquez-Rodriguez was 34 years old.
Bradley Donovan: Mr. Donovan was a 47-year-old man who resided in Springfield, Illinois. While the media has not yet reported much information on Mr. Donovan, the Hamilton County Coroner stated that he died due to thoracoabdominal blunt trauma.
In addition to the deceased, more than a dozen other bus passengers were hospitalized.
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