A couple from Crystal Lake is being remembered as “beloved parents” who dedicated their lives to their family and community after they were killed in a dust storm pileup in downstate Illinois.
The Illinois State Police said approximately 72 vehicles were involved in crashes that occurred in the northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 55 between mile markers 76 and 78 in Montogomery County.
The pileup happened around 10:55 a.m. on May 1 and resulted in 37 people being transported to the hospital.
The victims, ages spanning from two to 80, were transported to area hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to critical.
Approximately 30 commercial motor vehicles and 40 passenger cars were involved, state police said. Two semi-trucks caught fire following the crashes.
Multiple police departments, over a dozen ambulance services and approximately a dozen fire departments responded to the scene.
Five medical helicopters were also called to the incident. Seven people died in the crashes.
The crashes were caused due to excessive winds blowing dirt from farm fields across the highway, leading to zero visibility, state police said.
The state police on May 2 initially identified one of the seven victims as Shirley Harper, 88, of Franklin, Wisconsin.
On Saturday, authorities released the identifies of five additional victims: Joseph Bates, 73, of Crystal Lake; Donna Bates, 71, of Crystal Lake; Earl LeGrand, 64, of Florissant, Missouri; Michael Zinchuk, 55, of Champaign; and Amy Zinchuk, 54, of Champaign.
The final victim was identified on Thursday as Otto Medina-Salazar, 58, Carthage, Missouri.
An obituary for Joseph Bates and Donna Bates said the Crystal Lake couple met while they were working at an insurance company in Chicago and married in 1981.
Joseph Bates held positions of CPA, controller and vice president while working in the insurance field.
Donna Bates was also a teacher’s assistant for North Elementary School in Crystal Lake for over 20 years, their obituary said.
She began her singing career in 1969 with the Melodeers Chorus of Sweet Adelines International and they went on to win multiple international competitions.
Donna Bates was part of the Melo-Edge quartet and performed international cruises, the Phil Donahue Show and a Toni Tennille special.
She was also a master director and an instructor for the Sweet Adeline International Organization, the obituary said.
The couple leaves behind two daughters. A visitation was held in Crystal Lake on Wednesday and church services were held Thursday morning.
Crystal Lake resident Cory Kennedy, a family friend, said the couple were “beloved parents who dedicated their lives to their family and community.”
“They were always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need and were loved by all who knew them,” Kennedy said.
A GoFundMe has collected almost $12,000 for the funeral services. Leftover funds will be donated to the “Cornet Club” of Sweet Adeline’s International and the Gibson County Humane Society.