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Interstate 55 dust storm claims 8th victim

An ambulance at a massive accident scene along I-55, south of Springfield, May 1.
Nathan Cormier
An ambulance at a massive accident scene along I-55, south of Springfield, May 1.

The Sangamon County Coroner Wednesday confirmed the death of a woman from Sorento, Illinois as the 8th victim to die in the accidents caused by a dust storm on Interstate 55 this month.

Coroner Jim Allmon said Ruth Rau, 81, was a passenger in a vehicle that crashed in Montgomery County May 1. His office said Rau was transported by EMS from the scene to HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield. She died Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. as an inpatient from multiple blunt force injuries sustained in the crash.

Last week, the Illinois State Police released the other names of victims:

Joseph Bates, 73-year-old from Crystal Lake, IL

Donna Bates, 71-year-old from Crystal Lake, IL

Earl LeGrand, 64-year-old from Florissant, MO

Michael Zinchuk, 55-year-old from Champaign, IL

Amy Zinchuk, 54-year-old from Champaign, IL

Shirley Harper, 88-year old from Franklin, WI

State Police said the crashes were caused by blowing dust from nearby farm fields that led to near zero visibility. A total of 72 vehicles were involved and more than three dozen people were injured. An investigation is continuing.

Winds were blowing between 40-50 m.p.h. that day. Later that afternoon, the National Weather Service in central Illinois posted its first Blowing Dust Warning.