Dust Storm Causes Massive Highway Pileup, Leaving At Least Six Dead

[Screenshot/YouTube/Fox 32 Chicago]

Font Size:

A dust storm in Illinois caused a massive highway pileup on Monday involving approximately 80 vehicles and killing at least six people, authorities said.

Excessive winds carried dust from newly plowed fields across Interstate 55, creating zero visibility for drivers near Springfield, according to a press release from the Illinois State Police. The obscure conditions led to crashes on both sides of the interstate along a two-mile stretch of the highway beginning just before 11 a.m., the release stated.

In total, 20 commercial vehicles and between 40 and 60 passenger cars were involved in the collisions that sent more than 30 people to the hospital and killed at least 6, according to the release. (RELATED: At Least 27 Injured In Pileup Near Illinois-Wisconsin Border)

Fires from two semi-tractor trailers only worsened visibility conditions for first responders to the “difficult” scene as they sought to get to wounded victims “in a rapid manner,” Kevin Schott, the director of Montgomery County’s Emergency Management Agency, told CNN.

“This is a difficult scene, something that is very hard to train for, something that we really haven’t experienced locally,” Schott continued, noting that first responders were struggling to rescue people from the scene with thick dust in their eyes.

“We had to search every vehicle, whether they were involved in the accident or just pulled over, to check for injuries,” he said, adding that people were “upset — visibly so, understandably so,” Schott told the outlet.

Crash victim Evan Anderson, 25, was traveling from Chicago to St. Louis when he found himself caught up in the dust storm. “You couldn’t even see,” Anderson told WGN.  “People try to slow down and other people didn’t, and I just got plowed into. There was just so many cars and semi trucks with so much momentum behind them,” he continued.

Tom Thomas, also traveling to St. Louis, echoed Anderson’s account. “The only thing you could hear after we got hit was crash after crash after crash behind us,” he told the outlet.