HAMEL — Two sisters from Staunton were killed Tuesday night when a trucker on I-55 plowed into their car and six other vehicles.
The dead were identified as Madisen N. Bertels, 17, and her sister Hailey Joann Bertels, 20. They were in a 2010 Kia Forte that was struck by the tractor-trailer on southbound I-55 near Hamel. Staunton is about 80 miles southwest of Decatur in Macoupin County.
The crash involved eight vehicles in all, and about a dozen people survived but were hospitalized with injuries. Two of the injured are in critical condition.
The trucker survived, and investigators are trying to determine why he plowed into the other cars.
The crash happened about 6:15 p.m. in the southbound lanes of I-55, at the 27.5 milepost. The area is south of Hamel in Madison County, about eight miles northeast of Edwardsville.
The injured include six college students and a professor from Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo. They were in a van returning from a model United Nations conference in Chicago.
The students' injuries are not life-threatening, said a university spokesman, Cassie Mathes. One was in surgery overnight in serious condition. The students' injuries included a broken leg and head injuries. The professor, who was driving the college van, suffered a dislocated shoulder, she said.
Several witnesses told investigators a southbound semi truck traveling an estimated 60 mph struck seven vehicles, running over some of them, Trooper Calvin Dye said. Several patients had to be rescued from their vehicles after the crash.
Madison County Coroner Stephen Nonn said Madisen Bertels was driving the Forte; her older sister was in the back seat. Madisen was wearing a seat belt. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Hailey Bertels, the back seat passenger, was also wearing a seat belt. She also was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officials with the Illinois State Police had not provided additional updates on the crash, as of Wednesday morning. Dye could not be reached for comment.
Southbound lanes near Hamel were closed after the crash, with traffic diverted from the area at Illinois Route 140.
Tuesday night's deadly crash came two days before the grim 10-year anniversary of another horrific crash that killed two sisters on I-55 in Illinois.
On Nov. 23, 2007, Jessica Uhl, 18, and her sister, Kelli, 13, both of Collinsville, were heading west on Interstate 64 near the Scott Air Force Base exit when Illinois State Police Trooper Matt Mitchell's patrol car crossed the median and struck their car.
Mitchell lost his license and job after it was determined he was driving more than 120 mph while talking on a cellphone and using a computer.