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At least 6 dead after dust storm causes 80-vehicle pile-up on Illinois highway

Dust storm leads to fatal Illinois highway pileup
Dust storm leads to fatal pileup on Illinois highway 01:45

At least six people are dead following a pile-up involving up to 80 vehicles on Interstate 55 south of Springfield, Illinois, on Monday, Illinois State Police said. More than 30 people were transported to the hospital with injuries. 

A dust storm led to the massive pile-up involving 20 commercial vehicles and 40 to 60 passenger cars, police said at a press conference on Monday afternoon. 

Two of the tractor-trailers involved in the crash caught fire, Illinois State Police Maj. Ryan Starrick said.

The initial crash happened on the northbound side of the highway, followed by another on the southbound side, according to police. They said the fatalities occurred in the northbound lanes. 

Excessively high winds blew soil from area farms onto the roadway, reducing visibility. CBS Chicago reports the dust storm resulted from a combination of meteorological conditions and human activity, namely agricultural land cultivation and leaving topsoil bare.

Officials said that while dust storms like this have happened before, they hadn't seen conditions quite like those that caused the pile-up.

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."

Authorities set up staging areas away from the crash site to help travelers reunite with friends and family.

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