CHICAGO — The 25-year-old driver who was at the wheel during a fatal Megabus crash in south-central Illinois says he did everything he could to control the double-decker after a tire blew out.
"When I heard the tire pop, I immediately grabbed hold extra tight to the steering wheel and let go of the accelerator. But I did not apply the brakes because I knew at highway speed it likely would have caused the bus to roll over," Preston Taylor told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday.
The disabled bus didn't react to attempts to steer it, Taylor said. It struck a bridge pillar along Interstate 55 near Litchfield on Aug. 2, killing an MU graduate student and injuring nearly four dozen others.
"I felt the heavy load on the bus, and the wheels would not turn. I was driving at 55 mph in the middle lane. When the tire blew, the bus veered into the left lane. I just held onto the steering wheel as tightly as I could and tried to keep it under control," Taylor said. "But unfortunately, it went into the ditch."
Taylor, who lives in the Chicago suburb of Harvey, suffered a facial fracture and Achilles tendon damage from flying glass. He said he's undergone three surgeries and is scheduled for one more plus a skin graft.
Taylor used to drive a school bus and began working for Megabus in July. He was still in training when the accident happened and had a trainer riding with him. But Taylor told the Tribune that the trainer "really didn't get a chance to say anything to me" because the accident started so quickly.
An Illinois State Police crash report released Wednesday confirms the accident began when the front driver's-side tire blew out. The bus struck a guardrail and rammed directly into a concrete bridge support pillar. The crash remains under investigation.
Taylor has a clean driving record, authorities said. According to the accident report, he was issued two citations for administrative issues unrelated to the accident. One citation was for failing to keep his driver's logbook current, and the other was for "an incorrect sticker."