MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ill. – Illinois State Police identified five more victims from a series of deadly dust storm crashes on Interstate 55 last Monday.

Seven drivers in the northbound lanes of Interstate 55, between mile markers 76 and 78, died from crashes in the deadly dust strom around mile marker. Illinois State Police say 37 people were hospitalized, and 72 vehicles were believed to be involved in the crash in some capacity.

The victims identified Saturday include…

  • Joseph Bates, 73, of Crystal Lake, Illinois
  • Donna Bates, 71, of Crystal Lake, Illinois
  • Earl LeGrand, 64, of Florissant, Missouri
  • Michael Zinchuk, 55, of Champaign, Illinois
  • Amy Zinchuk, 54, of Champaign, Illinois

Investigators previously identified Shirley Harper, 88, of Franklin, Wisconsin, as one of the victims. Police have not yet disclosed the identity of one other victim.

ISP spokesperson Brendan Kelly says they can’t jump to conclusions on what exactly led up to the crash, though noted a period of dryness in Illinois might have contributed to the dust storm. He says the stretch of Interstate 55 where the crash happened is flat and surrounded by dirt farms, though usually doesn’t experience much trouble from wind breaks.

“There were very unusual circumstances,” said Kelly on Tuesday. “Certainly dust storms happen, but it’s not something that happens every day in this part of Illinois or in any part of Illinois. It’s a terrible tragedy, it’s a terrible day in this part of Illinois and for the families that were affected by this, we’ll certainly continue to keep them at the center of our hearts.”

Kelly adds that the intestate was closed quickly after initial reports of crashes and the dust storm around 11 a.m. Monday, though, noted “parameters are not always predictable” to have closed it in advance, like in the case of a blizzard or icy conditions. I-55 briefly closed on Tuesday as well due to similar dust storm conditions.