LITCHFIELD, Ill. — A blown tire probably caused a double-decker bus to lurch out of control and strike a bridge pillar in the grassy median of an interstate highway, killing one passenger and injuring nearly four dozen others, a State Police investigator said Friday.
A fully packed Megabus crashed head-on into the concrete pillar Thursday afternoon on Interstate 55 near Litchfield, Ill., about 55 miles northeast of St. Louis. The front of the bus was so mangled rescuers had to use ladders to pull people out windows of the upper level.
Passengers gave harrowing accounts of the wreck. Several reported hearing a tire blow out just before the crash, and State Police Lieutenant Louis Kink said that probably was the cause.
‘‘You figure at 65 miles per hour, it would be hard to control a vehicle that big with a blown tire,’’ Kink said.
There was no evidence of driver error and no other known contributing factors, Kink said, though a final investigation report could take two weeks. The weather was dry and there was no road construction along that section of the interstate, he said.
State Police investigators have determined that the bus was carrying 78 passengers, plus the driver and a second driver who was riding along.
It was traveling from Chicago to St. Louis and Columbia, Mo., then on to Kansas City, Mo.