MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) – Illinois State Police reported that all southbound and northbound lanes on Interstate 55 remain closed Monday night after 72 vehicles crashed south of Springfield.
Police said that Troopers from Troop 6 and 8 responded to multiple crashes on Interstate 55 near milepost 76 just before 11:00 a.m.
ISP said there was a crash on northbound Interstate 55 at milepost 76. At the same time, there were numerous crashes on southbound Interstate 55 at milepost 76. The crashes occurred within a two-mile stretch between mileposts 76 to 78, north of Farmersville, Illinois.
As of Monday night, officials said 72 vehicles are reported being involved in the crash. A total of 37 people were transported to area hospitals. Injuries range from minor to life-threatening and ages span from 2-years-old to 80-years-old.
A representative from HSHS St. John’s Hospital confirmed with WCIA that a total of 30 patients were transported to HSHS hospitals from the crash.
ISP reported there are six deaths at this time, all occurring in the northbound lanes.
Officials said that one of the people who died has been identified as 88-year-old Shirley Harper of Franklin, Wisconsin. The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office is working to identify the other five individuals and notify their families.
According to Farmersville Waggoner Ambulance Service, a large number of vehicles were on fire and produced heavy smoke. ISP confirmed 2 tractor semis were on fire but were extinguished.
State police officials also report diesel spillage from one of the commercial vehicles.
More than 30 agencies were dispatched to the scene including a hazmat unit.
Officials said that I-55 remains closed as of 9:30 p.m. in both directions from milepost 63 near Farmersville, to milepost 80 near Divernon. Traffic is being diverted onto the frontage road.
Drivers are still urged to take an alternative route.
Once the interstate is cleared of all vehicles, police said that the Illinois Department of Transportation will have to inspect the roadway before it can be re-opened.
To reunify family members involved in the crash, Divernon City Hall and the Auburn Travel Center are being used as reunification points.
Rep. Nikki Budzinski (D-IL) said her team is monitoring the devastating crash.
“I’m heartbroken by the devastating reports of fatalities in the crash on I-55 today,” she wrote on Twitter. “My thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of these individuals and everyone who has been hospitalized with injuries.”
State Senator Steve McClure is asking people to keep the victims and the first responders in their thoughts and prayers.
“I visited the area this afternoon and witnessed just how hazardous the conditions are,” McClure said. “I’m amazed at the work of the first responders from numerous agencies working to save lives in an extremely difficult situation.”
Law enforcement expect the earliest the road will re-open is Tuesday.
State police said this information is still preliminary as ISP continues to investigate the crash.