NEAR HARDIN — Six people died - two of them children - and eight people were taken to hospitals after a 21-vehicle pileup along I-90 east of Billings on Friday, July 15, 2022.
The names of the people who died have not yet been released, and there is no word on the current condition of the people that were hospitalized.
The incident was reported at around 4:30 p.m and centered near mile marker 493, several miles west of the town of Hardin.
The cause of the massive pile-up is believed to have been a sudden and intense storm that reduced visibility to near-zero.
“As we got closer into the dust storm, you could start seeing the vehicles in the ditch. There was a camper, the whole side of it was blown off, the top was off of it. Front ends of vehicles were smashed in," said Landa Uffelman.
Others said dust obscured the view of the scene from outside of 10 feet.
“We couldn’t even see like ten feet in front of us so we immediately hit our brakes. On both sides, there were cars braked and stopped, and then I saw a van that was just pancaked into the back of a semi. And then behind it, there were about 20-30 vehicles that were piling up on each other," said Tom Howe, who had passed through the scene.
“It was like a snowstorm but dust it was very low visibility, it was like fog. It reminded me of very dense fog," Ariel Dehart told MTN News.
Sheyenne Scheeler saw several cars that were crushed. She called the incident "gut wrenching," and said: “The first thing that we saw was a pickup that had been pulling a camper and the camper looked like it had been ripped open like a can. And then after that we started seeing more cars that had rear ended."
Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Jay Nelson says that the crash scene has now been cleared.
Sgt. Nelson says the conditions of the wind storm that caused the crash was an isolated, extreme weather event.
Crash investigators are combing through all evidence and should have a report on Monday, according to Sgt. Nelson, and the coroner is expected to make a statement as well.
"In my 24 years of experience, this is one of the most intense multi-vehicle accidents we've had in the state of Montana," Sgt. Nelson said.
He says with the intense wind and dust, it was tragedy in an instant.
(1st REPORT, FRIDAY, JULY 15, 2022, 6:59 pm) At least 20 vehicles crashed in the westbound lane of Interstate 90 near the town of Hardin on Friday, July 15, 2022, in what authorities are calling a "mass casualty incident."
Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Jay Nelson told MTN News that the incident was reported at around 4:30 p.m. and first responders were still arriving at the scene 90 minutes later.
The crash is centered around mile marker 493 about three miles west of Hardin and involves passenger vehicles and semi-trucks.
According to the Montana Highway Patrol, there has been at least one fatality. Emergency personnel are expected to be at the scene for several hours.
The Montana Department of Transportation website says: "WATCH OUT FOR EMERGENCY PERSONNEL - ALL EAST BOUND I-90 TRAFFIC IS BEING DIVERTED ONTO THE OLD HWY 87 AT MM 484 INTO HARDIN, MT. WEST BOUND TRAFFIC IS 1 LANE AT MM 494 - DRIVE WITH CAUTION"
At this point, there is no word on what caused the crashes. We will update you as we get more information.