Seventh victim discovered among I-55 wreckage
The Illinois State Police say another fatality was discovered Tuesday, a day after a series of accidents on the highway south of Springfield.
Initially, six people were determined to have died. But according to a statement "the severity of the crash masked the remains of what was originally believed to have been the remains of one individual was two."
Four victims have been identified. One name, Shirley Harper, 88, of Franklin, Wisconsin, has been released.
Two others remain unidentified, due primarily to the extent of damage to their vehicles, according to officials. More than three dozen were injured.
Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly says there was no prior indication that the interstate should have been closed prior the accidents.
Low visibility due to blowing dust from nearby farm fields led to about 80 vehicles being involved.
Kelly says highways are often closed during blizzards or Hazmat situations, but he called those “extreme” circumstances.
"At this stage, we don’t believe there were factors that indicated an interstate should have been shut down preemptively. There was nothing that would have warranted that," he said.
Kelly added the ongoing investigation could bring new details. The National Weather Service issued a “Blowing Dust Warning”, but that happened after the accidents on I-55.
The State Police and Illinois Department of Transportation closed the highway in the same area Tuesday after gusty winds again created visibility concerns. It was reopened in the early evening.
A crash reconstruction team will go through the "black boxes" on vehicles in an effort to determine how fast they were traveling and when they stopped.
Kelly said drivers who find themselves in similar situations should slow down, but avoid a complete stop along the interstate. He said drivers should pull as far off the road as possible, turn off all lights and come to a complete stop. Avoid getting out of the car and keep your seat belt fastened.