Two of seven killed after Illinois dust storm caused massive crash can’t be identified
Police are still trying to determine the identities of two of the seven people killed on Monday in a 72-car pile up on I-55 in Illinois.
High winds kicked up a dust storm on Monday morning. Low visibility resulted in a massive chain accident on the highway, leaving long stretches of road marred by wrecked vehicles.
Only one victim, Shirley Harper, an 88-year-old grandmother, has been named thus far.
Police have identified four other victims, but have not publicly named them. Initial reports suggested there were only six deaths, but police have determined that remains they first believed were one person are actually two, according to the St Louis Dispatch.
The Illinois State Police asked for the public's assistance in identifying two of the seven individuals.
"We believe we are communicating with family members and we are using variety of techniques and investigative capabilities to be able to confirm that these are in fact their family members that are the victims," Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said during a press conference.
Police have tentatively identified three other victims, though their names have not been publicly released at the time of this report. It is unclear if the seventh victim has been tentatively identified by police or if that individual's name will require further investigation.
Montgomery County Coroner Randy Leetham told the Post-Dispatch that he can’t even verify the ages or genders of the three victims.
“We’ll have to use DNA,” he said. “And that’s gonna be a process.”
Witnesses compared the scene to a "war zone." Two trucks caught fire, and 37 people required transport to hospitals to treat their injuries.
The affected stretch of I-55 remained closed for the remainder of Monday and re-opened early on Tuesday. However, another windstorm in the area kicked up dust, prompting the Illinois Department of Transportation to shut down the stretch of highway again around 3pm, citing an "abundance of caution."
The National Weather Service measured wind speeds between 35 and 45mph (56-72kph) on the day of the accident. A combination of flat land without many trees mixed with a dry three weeks made conditions ideal for a dust storm once the winds picked up.
State police said during a press conference on Tuesday that no charges were being considered for the crash at the time of the presser.