A sudden dust storm near Hardin, eastern Montana on Friday night brought blinding driving conditions that led to multiple collisions between passenger vehicles and tractor-trailers, killing six.
KGVO News spoke to Montana Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Sergeant Jay Nelson about the tragic crashes.
“Around 4:28 p.m., we received the first 911 calls,” Sergeant Nelson began. “We had a 21-car, high-fatality incident along Interstate 90 just three miles west of Hardin. Everything indicates through our investigation and through witness statements and the National Weather Service that we had an extreme weather event that was isolated and unplanned that literally caused a one-mile stretch of near-blackout conditions along off Interstate 90.”
Sergeant Nelson provided more details about the incident.
“We had a total of 21 vehicles involved, and of those 21, six were utility vehicles or tractor-trailers,” he said. “We also had 15 passenger vehicles which resulted in the tragic loss of six people. Additionally, eight people were also transported to local hospitals following the multi-vehicle collision.
Nelson said it was a freak accident that no one could have foreseen, but for our website readers and radio listeners, Nelson provided potentially life-saving advice in the event of a similar emergency. .
“If you’re in the middle of something like this, the most important thing we recommend is to turn on your headlights and turn on your hazard warning lights, the more we can warn other drivers the better, then try to get off the road,” he says. “A lot of times panic ensues and we just want to brake. Well, there are several vehicles behind you that might not be expecting you and might be following too closely, or they are also panicking and that can cause those chain collisions.
Nelson then added some common-sense precautions to be prepared in case of an emergency, whether it’s a blinding dust storm or a blinding winter snowstorm.
“The best place for you is inside the vehicle with your seat belt on,” he said. “Today’s vehicles are designed to keep you inside the vehicle and to keep you safe. It’s not easy and we fully understand that panic really sets in, but if you can keep your seat belts fastened, stay inside the vehicle, turn on your hazard lights and drive to the side of the road , the chances of you being involved in something like this tragedy is much less.
According to reports, two of the victims of the multiple road accidents were children.
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