Two people were seriously injured Monday morning when a tractor-trailer sideswiped a tour bus parked on the westbound shoulder of Interstate 70 in Blue Springs.
The bus, which was headed from St. Louis to Overland Park, had pulled over after a tire went flat, said Sgt. Collin Stosberg, a spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol.
A tractor-trailer apparently veered out of its lane about 10:45 a.m. and sideswiped the bus, which got pushed part way down an embankment along the interstate between Missouri 7 and Adams Dairy Parkway. The impact tore open a long gash on the side of the trailer that struck the bus.
Witnesses reported seeing the tractor-trailer driver swerving before impact, Stosberg said.
Later Monday the tractor-trailer driver was issued a citation for careless and imprudent driving, Stosberg said. The driver told authorities he had put a piece of gum in his mouth, started to choke and then reached for some water, Stosberg said.
He was not injured and spoke with law enforcement at the scene.
All nine passengers on the bus and the driver were taken to Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence. One person was in critical condition on Monday afternoon and another was in serious condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Landon Whitteck, who lives just north of the interstate, rushed to the scene after hearing the collision. He saw that about half of the tour bus’s left side had been torn away.
“I knew my first instinct was, for the people who were OK, to get them off the bus. … They were trying to get to a lady who was trapped. There was another guy who looked like he might have been pinned. His arm was severely broken.”
About five of the 10 occupants got out of the bus on their own, Whitteck said. Emergency workers cut open part of the left side of the bus to remove one passenger, and they cut a hole in the right side to remove a woman, he said.
“The first thing I did when I took off running toward that bus, I started praying,” Whitteck said. “I know a lot of people don’t believe in that, but I do, and I think He was here today, helping.”
Investigators planned to download information from the truck’s event data recorder to learn the truck’s speed at the time of the accident and other details, such as whether the driver was wearing a seat belt and the turn signal had been engaged, Stosberg said.
The small tour buswas headed to a company that conducts clinical research.
The Star’s Tony Rizzo contributed to this report.