6 dead after crash on Interstate 55 due to Illinois dust storm

Six people were killed and at least 37 injured Monday when a rare dust storm swept through nearby farms and onto a highway in rural Illinois, causing “zero visibility” conditions, Illinois State Police said.

The crashes happened just before 11 a.m. on both sides of the highway along a two-mile stretch of Interstate 55 in central Illinois, police said. Report. The highway in the area, which was closed in both directions following the accident, was reopened Tuesday morning. Police said.

Then the police said 72 vehicles were involved in accidents and six deaths occurred on the northbound lane. Passenger cars and commercial vehicles, including two tractor-trailers, caught fire in the crash near Farmersville, Ill., south of Springfield and west of Indianapolis.

The injured ranged in age from 2 to 80 years old, and their injuries ranged from minor to life-threatening, officials said. It was difficult to extricate people from their vehicles, some of which were engulfed in flames, they added.

Authorities are struggling to identify two of the injured and asked for the public’s help at a news conference Tuesday. One victim was driving a blue Chrysler 300 and the other a Hyundai.

“It’s a difficult scenario, one that’s very difficult to train for, and one that we’ve never really experienced locally,” Kevin Schott, director of Montgomery County’s Emergency Management Agency, said at a news conference Monday. The Environmental Protection Agency was called in to contain the spill from some diesel trucks.

The dust storm arrived quickly, creating blizzard-like conditions in which visibility was severely reduced, officials said.

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Brendan Kelly, director of the Illinois State Police, said the interstate is “pretty flat” and surrounded by dirt farm fields. At the time of the crash, he said, there was “significant field dust deposition” in fields to the west, creating blackout conditions.

“It is very early in the process and we are not saying there is no crime at this stage, but we have six people who have lost their lives,” said Mr. Kelly said the department will try to reconstruct the crash. To determine the cause.

Although Dust storms According to the National Weather Service, they can occur anywhere in the United States, and are most common in the Southwest. They rarely occur in central Illinois, said Ben Dubelbeis, a meteorologist with the service.

But the dry weather, combined with very strong winds, created conditions on Monday that caused Springfield Airport – about 30 miles north of the crash site – to record only half its usual rainfall for April, Mr. Dubelbeis added. He added that the airport experienced 40 mph winds on Monday.

Chicago resident Layla Arson said she was driving on Interstate 55 Monday when she started seeing dust and smoke. Despite the strong winds, the cars didn’t seem to slow down and “trucks were fishing left and right,” Ms Arson said. She was eventually forced to turn onto the highway to avoid the crash site three miles ahead.

Similar conditions resulted Eight-vehicle pileup in Amarillo, Texas, last month, but officials there said no one was seriously injured.

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Nick Gorman, who works in Farmersville, said he saw a “huge cloud of dust” that tasted like chalk Monday morning, making him cough and obscuring the view for miles. He said the village, which has a population of less than 700, has never experienced a dust storm warning.

“Whenever August is really dusty,” Mr. Gorman, 22, said. “It was weird this time of year.”

Mike Ives And McKenna Oxendon Contributed report.

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