At least six people including two children are dead after a dust storm blew through Montana causing a 21-vehicle pileup.
The accident occurred in Big Horn County, Montana, the sixth largest county in the state with 5,023 square miles of land and roughly 13,000 residents.
On Friday evening at least six people were killed when a dust storm triggered a 21-vehicle pileup on Interstate 90. Montana Highway Patrol Sergeant Jay Nelson said emergency crews were deployed to the scene to respond to the massive accident.
“It appears as though there were heavy winds, causing a dust storm with zero visibility,” Nelson said.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen added that the first responders are investigating the accident.
“The Montana Highway Patrol is on the scene with other first responders and investigating the incident,” Knudsen said. “This investigation is still ongoing. We will release more information as it becomes available and is appropriate out of respect of the lives lost and their loved ones.”
— Intel Point ALERT (@IntelPointAlert) July 16, 2022
The accident, which occurred on a popular two lane highway, involved personal vehicles such as sedans, trucks, camper vans, as well as large commercial vehicles such as tractor trailers. At least six of the vehicles involved in the crash were tractor trailers. Eyewitness Ariel Dehart said she saw a camper van ripped open in the pileup while driving past the accident.
“The visibility was so poor and scary,” Dehart said. “The air was warm and eerie. It was like wearing sepia-colored glasses. It was so crazy.”
“When I saw the ripped-open camper, my gut dropped,” she said. “But the owner just was frantically putting his decorative pillows back in the camper, and it was so sad because he was obviously so in over his head with what just happened.”
Jose Strickland, another eyewitness, was able to stop his vehicle as the pileup occurred in front of him. He stayed for roughly 45 minutes after the pileup occurred and at one point assisted others in pulling an elderly man from his vehicle and placing him on a stretcher.
Scary scene just a couple miles west of Hardin, MT on I-90. I am hearing multiple casualties. My thoughts are with everyone involved. pic.twitter.com/FT8RXtr8Xl
— McLovin (@McLovin1019) July 16, 2022
“Visibility dropped in an instant,” Strickland wrote in a Facebook post about his experience.
“We found ourselves skidding to a stop and everyone scrambling off the road to safety. My heart goes out to the families affected.”
“I still can’t get over the fact that we were one truck away from disaster. For whatever reason my dad, Raul Joseph Beger, decided to take the wheel after lunch and to say the least I’m glad his experience came into play,” wrote eyewitness Strickland.
The dust storm responsible for the accident was powered by severe winds of up to 60 mph.