A sudden dust storm near Hardin in eastern Montana on Friday evening resulted in blinding driving conditions that led to multiple crashes between passenger vehicles and semi trucks resulting in six deaths.

KGVO News spoke with Sergeant Jay Nelson, Public Information Officer with the Montana Highway Patrol about the tragic accidents.

“At approximately 4:28 p.m. is when we received the first 911 calls,” began Sergeant Nelson. “We had a 21 car mass casualty incident along Interstate 90 just three miles west of Hardin. Everything is indicative through our investigation and through witness statements and the National Weather Service that we had an extreme weather event that was isolated and unforeseen that caused literally a one-mile stretch of almost blackout conditions along Interstate 90.”

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Sergeant Nelson provided more specifics about the incident.

“We had a total of 21 vehicles involved, and out of those 21, six were commercial motor vehicles or semi trucks,” he said. “We also had 15 passenger vehicles that resulted in the tragic loss of six individuals. In addition, eight individuals were also transported to local hospitals as a result of this multi-vehicle collision.”

Nelson said it was a freak accident that no one could have foreseen, however for our website readers and radio listeners, Nelson provided some potentially life-saving tips in the event of a similar emergency.

“If you are in the middle of something like this, the biggest thing that we recommend is that you turn on your headlights and turn on your hazard lights, the more warning we can give other drivers the better, and then try to get off of the road,” he said. “Many times panic ensues and we want to just hit the brakes. Well, there are several vehicles behind you that might not be expecting and that might be following too close, or they're panicking as well and that can cause these chain-reaction collisions.”

Nelson then added some common sense precautions to be prepared in any such emergency, whether a blinding dust storm or a blinding snowstorm in the winter.

“The best place for you is inside the vehicle with your seat belt on,” he said. “Today's vehicles are meant to keep you inside the vehicle and keep you safe. It's not easy and we fully understand that panic really sets in, but if you can keep those seat belts on, keep inside the vehicle, put your hazards on your lights on, and get to the edge of the road, the chances of you being involved in something like this tragedy is far less.”

Reportedly, two of the victims in the multiple vehicle accidents were children.

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