At Least 6 People Killed, 30 Injured in Large Crashes on I-55 in Illinois During Dust Storm (2024)

At least six people were killed and more than 30 others injured in large crashes involving up to 90 vehicles on Interstate 55 in south central Illinois during a dust storm, authorities said Monday afternoon.

According to Illinois State Police, at least 30 people, ranging in age from 2 to 80 years old, were taken to area hospitals. Their conditions weren't immediately known.

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Authorities said they were still conducting additional searches through the vehicles involved, which included an estimated 30 commercial vehicles and 40 to 60 passenger cars. The biggest challenge, according to Montgomery County EMA Director Kevin Schott, was trying to get to victims quickly.

"We had multiple vehicles involves, some were on fire," he said during a news briefing. "So we had vehicle fires to extinguish, we had to search every vehicle whether they were involved in the accident or just pulled over to check for for injuries, to getting them out of there rapidly and getting to the hospital so that we can provide professional care for them."

Schott said the day was "very emotion" and the situation that unfolded was "very rapid."

Multiple people were killed and more than 30 others injured in large crashes involving up to 90 vehicles on Interstate 55 in south-central Illinois during a dust storm, authorities said Monday afternoon.

"My heart goes out to the families," Starrick added. "My heart goes out to anybody that found themselves involved in this particular situation. It sounds like due to the low visibility, the high winds, everything just came together, unfortunately, on this particular stretch of I-55. My heart goes out to them."

The crash shut down I-55 in both directions for miles between Divernon and Farmersville, outside of Springfield, as police urged travelers to avoid the area. The roadway is expected to remain closed until Tuesday afternoon.

The "large crash" took place near milepost 76 in Montgomery County. Police said it initially happened in the northbound lanes of the highly trafficked interstate, but crashes then followed in the southbound lanes.

At least two semi-trucks caught fire during the crash.

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Police said "visibility in the area is reported to be low due to blowing dust." Visibility was reported to be at "less than a quarter of a mile" at the time of the crash, according to the National Weather Service.

"The cause of the crash is due to excessive winds blowing dirt from farm fields across the highway leading to zero visibility," ISP said in a release.

Images Show Dramatic Scene of Large Crash on I-55 Amid Dust Storm in South-Central Illinois

A "blowing dust warning" was issued for some counties in the area. The warning remains in effect through 7 p.m. in Sangamon, Christian and Shelby counties, though a warning was not issued for the location where the crash took place.

"Severely limited visibilities are expected," the warning states. "Travel will be dangerous and possibly life-threatening."

The National Weather Service urged people under the warning to stay indoors until the storm passes.

"Be ready for a sudden drop in visibility to near zero," the NWS stated. "If you encounter blowing dust on the roadway or see it approaching, pull off the road as far as possible and put your vehicle in park. Turn the lights all the way off and keep your foot off the brake pedal."

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he was closely monitoring the "horrific situation."

"My team is in constant communication with the Illinois State Police, Department of Transportation and Emergency Management Agency to ensure the safety of motorists as they navigate dangerous conditions," he said in a statement. "On the ground, our first responders and emergency management teams are working diligently to clear the road, provide medical care to those in need and collaborate with local officials to provide support to everyone affected by this tragic accident."

According to the NBC 5 Storm Team, the dust in the air could be caused by tilling, which is common during this time of year.

State police also cited that potential, stating that such scenarios are "not uncommon."

"This has happened before in various parts of the state of the Illinois, where unfortunately due to excessive high winds, that once the farmers have turned the field, the topsoil or the dirt that’s on top there gets loose," Major Starrick said. "It’s extremely dry, and due to the excessive winds of the area, will blow across certain roadways."

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At Least 6 People Killed, 30 Injured in Large Crashes on I-55 in Illinois During Dust Storm (2024)

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