A multi-vehicle pileup occurred south of Springfield, Illinois, resulting in at least six fatalities and scores more injuries.
On Monday, just before 11 a.m. CT, numerous collisions occurred on both the northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 55, according to the Illinois State Police.
At about the same moment, police declared a whiteout due to dirt being blown over the roadway from nearby farms.
According to the authorities, between forty and sixty vehicles and numerous tractor-trailers were involved in the collisions.
“The only thing you could hear after we got hit was crash after crash after crash behind us,” said Tom Thomas, 43, who was traveling south to St. Louis.
Several vehicles were reportedly on fire and producing thick smoke, as reported by Farmersville Waggoner Ambulance Service. Two commercial cars caught fire, and firefighters were able to put it out, according to ISP.
Evan Anderson, 25, was driving back to St. Louis from Chicago when he was hit by a lorry that swerved to avoid him.
“You couldn’t even see,” Anderson said. “People try to slow down and other people didn’t, and I just got plowed into. There were just so many cars and semitrucks with so much momentum behind them.”
Nearby Litchfield and Springfield hospitals received more than 30 patients. At least six persons, according to state police sources, were slain.
In Montgomery County, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of St. Louis, both directions of Interstate 55 have been closed due to an accident and are not expected to reopen until Tuesday.
Hazardous materials crews have been sent to the location, per a Facebook post by Springfield Fire Fighters Local 37.
Shared footage from the highway below shows near-total darkness and many automobile collisions. It seems as though there are patches where you can see only a few feet in any direction.
MASSIVE PILE-UP IN ILLINOIS: My heart dropped when I saw this video. This is a look at the I-55 pile-up just south of the Springfield area. This was due to high winds and loose dirt from farmland.— Amelia Mugavero (@amugaverotv) May 1, 2023
🎥: Nathan Cormier pic.twitter.com/tpkHp07bar
The National Weather Service has issued a blowing dust warning for three central Illinois counties until Monday night.
According to the National Weather Service, winds at the time were blowing between 35 and 45 miles per hour.
“It’s very flat, very few trees,” meteorologist Chuck Schaffer said. “It’s been very dry across this area really for the last three weeks. The farmers are out there tilling their fields and planting. The top layer of soil is quite loose.”
Kevin Schott, director of emergency services in Montgomery County, said it was a “very difficult scene” and one that’s “very hard to train for.”
“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.”
According to ISP, the investigation is only getting started.