Montana 'mass casualty' crash: 6 dead after dust storm with zero visibility leads to 21-vehicle pileup on I-90
Update: Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Jay Nelson revealed that the "quick-arising dust storm caused a 21-vehicle incident" in an email to NBC. The number of deaths have also risen to 6.
All eastbound traffic was being diverted off the highway, and westbound traffic has been reduced to one lane, according to the Montana Department of Transportation, which first reported about the pileup near mile post 493 at 4:55 p.m.
Interstate 90 in Montana witnessed a massive pileup on Friday evening, July 15, which resulted in at least five deaths. The authorities have explained that high winds and low visibility contributed to the crash which involved around several cars and semi-trucks on Interstate 90 eastbound between 19 miles east of Billings to three miles west of Hardin.
Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Jay Nelson told the Gazette, "We have a multi-vehicle, mass casualty incident three miles west of Hardin on I90." It's believed that almost 30 vehicles crashed and the authorities believe it was the weather. Sgt. Nelson said, "It appears as though there was heavy winds, causing a dust storm with zero visibility." He also shared that there were many troopers as of 6 pm and additional sources were on their way. Montana Department of Transportation incident map shows that the tragedy occurred at around 4.50 pm, resulting in the closure of both the eastbound lanes in Bighorn County. The MDT website also shared that multiple emergency vehicles were on the road and advises drivers to drive with caution.
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High winds, dust storms bringing zero visibility caused Montana highway pileup
A National Weather Service meteorologist in Billings, Nick Vertz, said a so-called 'outlaw' flew east/southeast about 30 miles. Outlaw is a surge of wind that is produced by storms but they can travel faster than them. Vertz also explained that the storm can be traced back several hours when it first popped up in central southern Montana between 1 and 2 pm. It was then when it began to proceed east. Big Horn County Airport reported a 40 mph (64 kph) gust of wind at 4.15 pm, which is awfully close to the time of the crash, i.e., 4.28 pm. These storms prompted a severe thunderstorm watch that covered Hardin and other parts of Montana from mid-afternoon until 9 pm Friday, July 15, reports SF Gate. Meteorologists forecasted the potential for isolated hail the size of a quarter, scattered wind gusts up to 75 mph (121 kph) and frequent lightning. Vertz added that it would be
"a relatively clear, calm night" for first responders.
The incident alert stated, "Use Caution - High Winds - Dust Storm - Very Low Visibility - Watch Out For Emergency Personnel And Multiple Vehicle Crashes." 25th Governor of the great State of Montana, Governor Greg Gianforte was made aware of the incident. He soon tweeted, "I'm deeply saddened by the news of a mass casualty crash near Hardin. Please join me in prayer to lift up the victims and their loved ones. We're grateful to our first responders for their service."
I'm deeply saddened by the news of a mass casualty crash near Hardin. Please join me in prayer to lift up the victims and their loved ones. We're grateful to our first responders for their service.— Governor Greg Gianforte (@GovGianforte) July 16, 2022
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Several posts on media have revealed the on-site condition which shows trucks and cars rolled over, claiming that there have been 5 deaths and more than 30 injuries. The damage looks severe as many vehicles have crashed into one another. One Twitter account posted the video saying, " #BREAKING: Numerous fatalities, 30+ injured following massive pileup in Hardin, Montana #Hardin | #Montana Right now multiple emergency crews and authorities are at the scene of a massive pileup on I-90 in Hardin, Montana reports are saying 5 people are dead and 30+ injured." Moreover, the NPO, Tea Storm Chasers, also shared a tweet saying, "I90 MM 393 WB for a report of a multi-vehicle (Approx 6) accident, with injuries. Avoid I90 west of I-29, traffic is backed for miles." No other information has been made available since 6 pm on Friday, July 15.
🚨#BREAKING: Numerous fatalities, 30+ injured following massive pileup in Hardin, Montana— R A W S A L E R T S (@rawsalerts) July 16, 2022
📌#Hardin | #Montana
Right now multiple emergency crews and authorities are at the scene of a massive pileup on I-90 in Hardin, Montana reports are saying 5 people are dead and 30+ injured pic.twitter.com/fdxDUwkynd
I90 MM 393 WB for a report of a multi-vehicle (Approx 6) accident, with injuries. Avoid I90 west of I-29, traffic is backed for miles. pic.twitter.com/SEYTNom0r4— Tea Storm Chasers (@TeaStormChaser) July 15, 2022
This is a developing story, we will update it as soon as further information is revealed.