Ten people were injured – two seriously but nothing life-threatening – on Monday when a tractor-trailer sideswiped a small tour bus sitting disabled on the shoulder of westbound Interstate 70 in Blue Springs. The bus was shoved down off the road through a speed-limit sign and was totaled.
All in all, officials said, it could have been much worse.
“We're lucky that those patients weren't hurt worse,” said Dr. Jay Pemberton, assistant medical director of emergency services at Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence, where the bus driver and nine passengers were taken.
Late in the day, Pemberton said, one patient was in critical condition, one was in serious condition and the rest had been released. The truck driver refused medical treatment at the scene of the accident.
The accident happened about 10:45 a.m. just west of Adams Dairy Parkway.
Landon Whitteck of Blue Springs said he heard the wreck and “grabbed my phone, shoes – dialed 911.”
He reached the bus, as did neighbors right behind him, but he only saw four or five people, even though the bus driver said there were 10 or 11. That “kind of makes your gut drop,” but he said he knew the priority was keeping people calm and positive until emergency crews arrived, which he said they quickly did.
He said one passenger, a woman, had to be cut out of the bus.
“Hopefully my getting there as fast as I did helped somebody get to the hospital faster than if somebody called from the highway,” Whitteck said.
Sgt. Collin M. Stosberg of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the bus, en route from St. Louis to Overland Park, had a flat tire and had pulled off to the shoulder.
“When you've got vehicles parked on the shoulder, it's a dangerous situation,” he said.
The truck had drifted out of its lane and struck the bus from behind and on the driver's side. He was cited for careless and imprudent driving, according to Associated Press.
“We're glad it wasn't worse than it could have been,” Stosberg said.
The Highway Patrol identified the truck driver as Russell T. Schneider, 42, of Mexico, Missouri.
The bus driver was Stewart L. Stillman, 47, of Overland, Missouri. He and nine passengers were taken to Centerpoint, though the Highway Patrol later posted it was just Stillman and eight passengers. They ranged in age from 18 to 54 and at that time had injuries listed as minor or moderate except one listed as serious. Seven of the eight are from the St. Louis area, and one is from Aurora, Missouri.
Pemberton said Centerpoint got word that the accident victims were coming and activated a command center.
“You get set up for a trauma protocol in that situation,” he said.
Many of the injuries were broken limbs, and Pemberton also mentioned one head injury. The hospital regularly does training for such scenarios, and he said overall things went smoothly.