I-55 pileup: Victims identified after 'dust storm' causes deadly crashes in south-central Illinois

The identity of the final victim killed in a series of crashes during a windstorm in downstate Illinois was released by state police on Thursday.

ISP says in total, 37 people were transported to area hospitals with a wide range of injuries and seven people were killed as a result of the pile up on Monday, May 1.

As of May 6, ISP released the identities of six of the victims. The Montgomery County Coroner's Office identified the last victim as Otto Medina-Salazar, 58, of Carthage, Missouri. 

A total of 72 vehicles were involved in crashes on north and southbound I-55 between mile markers 72 and 78 near Farmersville Monday morning, police say.

"The cause of the crashes is due to excessive winds blowing dirt from farm fields across the highway, leading to zero visibility," Illinois State Police Maj. Ryan Starrick said at a news conference.

The crashes happened around 10:55 a.m. and forced emergency officials to close a 30-mile stretch of I-55.

One of the seven victims killed was identified very soon after the crash as 88-year-old Shirley Harper of Franklin, Wisconsin.


Illinois State Police say two victims from Crystal Lake, Illinois, Joseph and Donna Bates, ages 73 and 71, were identified by the Montgomery County Coroner's Office. 

A 64-year-old man from Missouri, Earl LeGrand was also killed in the pileup. 

Michael and Amy Zinchuk, ages 55 and 54, from Champaign, Illinois were reportedly killed in a crash on their way home from vising their daughter in Missouri.

Starrick said such blinding dust storms have happened before on Illinois roads "where unfortunately you have excessively high winds" that blow the topsoil from fields.

All lanes of I-55 were reopened to traffic around 6 a.m. Tuesday, according to Illinois State Police.

Winds at the time were gusting between 35 mph and 45 mph, the National Weather Service said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.