COLLINSVILLE, Ill. – A stretch of Interstate 55 in central Illinois is back open Wednesday morning after closing again due to dusty conditions Tuesday afternoon.
Illinois State Police said they discovered another person died in that massive vehicle pile up on I-55. It’s about 75 miles northeast of St. Louis. This brings the total number of lives lost from six to seven.
A windstorm kicked up clouds of blinding dust from farm fields Monday morning, causing a series of crashes along I-55 in Montgomery County. The highway was closed in both directions overnight Monday, so crews could clear the road and investigate.
It reopened around 6:00 a.m. Tuesday, but then state police had to close a 20-mile stretch of I-55 again Tuesday because of similar conditions.
FOX 2 also learned of that seventh victim Tuesday.
Investigators explained that because of the severity of the damage, what they first believed were the remains of one person in a car, were actually two. Dozens of cars and semis crashed into each other, some bursting into flames.
In total, 72 cars were involved. 37 people were injured. They range in age from 2 to 80 years old and have injuries from minor to life-threatening.
The Montgomery County coroner has identified one of the people who died as 88-year-old Shirley Harper of Franklin, Wisconsin. Three other victims have tentatively been identified, but there are two adults who died. They have not been able to identify those victims so far.
One person was driving a blue Chrysler 300, the other was in a Hyundai. Police could not determine the color or model of that vehicle because of the damage.
They’re asking anyone who may know who they are, to call 618-346-3653.
Many vehicles involved in those crashes will also be released beginning Wednesday. If you were traveling south on I-55 prior to the crash, you are urged to call 217-685-4354 to arrange pickup for your vehicle.
If you were traveling north on I-55 prior to the crash, please call 618-346-3653 to arrange pickup for your vehicle. Some, but not all, vehicles traveling northbound on I-55 will be released.
These instructions still apply if your vehicle will be retrieved by a tow service, as additional information needs to be gathered at the time your vehicle is released. People retrieving vehicles must provide their driver’s license and insurance to the ISP Command Vehicle located at the intersection of Brown and Henrietta in Divernon.
An officer will ask basic questions such as, who was in the vehicle, your phone number, and insurance card information. Adjusters and/or private reconstruction are not allowed to gain access to the vehicles after they are processed.