MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ill. – A blinding dust storm led to a deadly crash involving more than 70 vehicles along Interstate-55 in south central Illinois. Tuesday morning, I-55 has completely reopened 19 hours after shutting down.
This all happened on I-55 in Montgomery County, north of Farmersville, and south of Divernon. Crews have been in the area non-stop since the crash took place.
Authorities said at least six people were killed and 37 others taken to hospitals after the crash happened shortly before 11:00 a.m. A total of 72 vehicles were involved, including some 20 commercial vehicles and many passenger cars.
We’re told two tractor trailers exploded from the wreck. Illinois state Police shared that high winds blew dust onto 55 from nearby farm fields, creating blinding conditions leading to the pile up.
Investigators explained the first crash took place on northbound 55 then at the same time numerous crashes took place southbound on the highway. The wrecks all happened between milepost 76 and 78.
We’re told the injuries range from minor to life-threatening, with the ages spanning from 2 years old to 80 years old.
FOX 2 spoke with Illinois State Police and a man who was in the area when the crash took place.
“The wind was blowing treacherously,” local Kevin Masters-Raymond expressed. “When we first came through, you could not see here at all – zero, zero visibility.”
“The conditions have to be just right as far as the excessive winds and the loose dirt on top of the farm fields, and depending on which way the wind direction blows to cause near extreme low visibility like a white-out condition – but a brown out conditions.” Illinois State Police Major Ryan Starrick said.
We’re told all six fatalities happened in the northbound lanes. Only one of the six people who died has been identified. That victim was 88-year-old Shirley Harper from Franklin, Wisconsin.
Illinois State Police are working to notify family members of three others who died. Police are also looking to identify two adults involved in the crash. One was found inside a blue Chrysler 300, while the other was found inside an unknown-colored Hyundai.
If you have any information on these victims, contact ISP at 618-346-3653.