According to the authorities, at least six people were murdered on Monday when a dust storm along a major highway in central Illinois forced more than 70 automobiles to crash into one another.
According to the police, the dust from freshly plowed fields covered the highway, causing multiple car accidents along Interstate 55 just before 11 a.m. central standard time in Montgomery and Sangamon counties, which are located south of the state capital. Sangamon County is home to Springfield, which serves as the state capital.
According to the Illinois State Police, there were a total of six fatalities and 37 injuries, ranging from non-life threatening to critical, that required medical attention. According to Major Ryan Starrick of the Illinois State Police, the ages of those who were hurt in the collisions ranged from 2 to 80 years old.
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Shirley Harper, 88, a resident of Franklin, Wisconsin, was identified as one of the victims of the collisions by the police late Monday evening. According to the police, efforts are still being made by officials to identify the five additional people who were slain and to notify their relatives.
According to the police, 72 different vehicles were involved in the collisions that took place along a two-mile section of Interstate 55. Starrick reported that two semitrailer trucks caught fire as well.
According to him, the collisions took place in both the northbound and the southbound lanes, but all of the fatalities were reported in the northbound lanes.
According to him, the section of the interstate that is located in southern Sangamon County and northern Montgomery County would remain blocked while authorities investigate and clear vehicles. Monday evening came and went with no change.
According to a statement made by the Illinois State Police in a news release, “The cause of the crash was due to excessive winds blowing dirt from farm fields across the highway, leading to zero visibility.”
According to Chad Myers, a meteorologist for CNN, gusts gusting up to 45 miles per hour stirred up the dust, making it practically hard to see on the relatively short section of highway.
“The factor that ultimately determined the outcome today was the tilled fields,” he remarked. “This was a localized event that was caused by local conditions.”
The situation was described as “a difficult scene.”
Photos taken at the scene of the collisions show a dense, yellowish haze hanging in the air above the highway. The photographs depict first responders surveying the damage while vehicles are engulfed in flames and smoke is mixed in with the haze.
First responders had a tough time coming to the site due to the thick dust, according to Kevin Schott, director of the Emergency Management Agency for Montgomery County, who noted that everyone’s “eyes are full of it.”
“This is a difficult scene, something that is very hard to train for, and something that we really haven’t experienced locally,” he remarked.
According to Schott, first responders were confronted through the thick haze with many automobiles that were already on fire and dozens of vehicles that were spread over both sides of the road. This made it difficult for first responders to get to “victims in a rapid manner.”
“We had to search every vehicle, regardless of whether they were involved in the accident or just pulled over, to check for injuries,” he said.
At 1:25 p.m. Central Standard Time, the National Weather Service office in Lincoln, Illinois, issued a “blowing dust warning.”
“It is anticipated that visibility would be extremely limited. According to the warning, traveling will be extremely hazardous and could even endanger your life. Winds have been gusting between 35 and 45 miles per hour across the whole region.
The warning went on to suggest that persons who suffer from respiratory issues should make it a priority to remain indoors until the storm has passed. It was recommended to “be ready for a sudden drop in visibility to nearly zero.”