6 killed in Illinois dust storm pileup

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ill. (CNN/KSDK) – Nearly 45 mile-an-hour winds picked up dirt and debris from farm fields that stretch all along I-55 and swirled it onto the road blinding drivers instantly, causing a deadly chain reaction crash in the north and southbound lanes.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said, “Approximately 30 commercial motor vehicles and 40 to 60 passenger cars were involved. This includes two truck tractor semi-trailers that caught fire as a result of the crashes.”

Penny Raab and her friend were driving from Wisconsin down to Mississippi when they suddenly found themselves in the middle of the pileup stuck for hours. They checked in with KSDK over the phone as they continued their trip.

Raab explained, “At first we thought there was, like, a fire or some sort, but we didn’t think there was going to be such a dust storm. And then the closer we approached it, the visibility just continually got worse. And then all of a sudden it was just a complete blackout.”

Raab said she was able to guide their car into the median just in time as she heard the crashes happen one by one all around them.

“And several vehicles and even the semis that had jackknifed, you know, by slamming on their brakes or trying to avoid, you know, any accidents,” Raab said. “You know, there were cars down in the median that obviously were hit or struck and then just drove right down into there.”

They were some of the few lucky ones who escaped without a scratch. More than 30 people from ages 2 to 80 years old were transported to four area hospitals with minor to life-threatening injuries at least 6 people didn’t make it.

“My heart goes out to their families,” Raab said. “My heart goes out to anybody that found themselves involved in this particular situation.”

Now that the dust and smoke has cleared, we can see what’s left of this horrific crash.

Illinois State Police said the cleanup is what’s most time-consuming they had fuel on the road, parts from cars and trucks, and dozens of vehicles to haul off.

“That’s our main priority right now is to recover the vehicles,” ISP said. “Have IDOT assessed the roadway to make sure that the roadway is safe so we can open up I-55 to get motorists back, back on their way.”

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