A 62-year-old Livingston woman died Monday night from injuries she suffered in a 10-car crash Friday afternoon on Interstate 55, according to police.
Pauline McKinney died at Saint Louis University Hospital at 6:34 p.m., Illinois State Police Trooper Calvin Dye Jr. said. She was driving a 1997 Dodge Ram pickup and was the fifth vehicle to be hit in the chain reaction.
Her passenger, a 62-year-old Collinsville man, also suffered life-threatening injuries and was airlifted to the hospital. He remains in serious but stable condition.
The third person airlifted from the crash, a 45-year-old Mt. Zion woman, was also recovering as of Tuesday morning. She was the driver of a vehicle in the crash.
The accident occurred on I-55 near exit 23, where Illinois 143 goes over the interstate. Police say a 53-year-old semi driver looked down to pick up his tea as he was approaching the construction zone near exit 23.
“This inattention caused him to fail to reduce his speed in time to avoid a collision,” Dye said Tuesday.
The semi driver struck another car, which caused a chain reaction that sent 10 people to the hospital and backed up traffic for miles.
As of Tuesday, no charges had been filed against the semi driver, from Lewistown, but the accident investigation was ongoing.
The crash is close to where a Nov. 21 accident killed four women — three from Staunton and one from Alhambra — when a semi crashed into stalled and stopped vehicles traveling southbound.
That semi was driven by 53-year-old Mohamed Yussuf Jama, of Greeley, Colorado.
While that crash also remained under investigation as of Tuesday, the Illinois State Police obtained warrants to search Jama’s tractor-trailer but had not located the truck driver’s cell phone.
After both accidents, people blamed the crashes on construction in that stretch of the interstate. However, Dye made it clear Saturday that police do not believe the construction zone is to blame for the accidents. Rather, he says, police say those accidents were caused by “sloppy and distracted driving.”
Illinois State Police are beginning to work on paroling that area in an effort to reduce accidents, Dye said Tuesday.
“IDOT is giving us additional federal funding to have multiple troopers out there throughout the rest of the month and the beginning of the year,” he said. “We will have multiple troopers out there working that construction zone to deter people, to slow people down.”
Dye said troopers often talk to construction zone workers who say drivers do some “really mind boggling” things through the construction zones. He also noted that multiple semi drivers have told police that it’s “inconceivable” to see what some semi drivers are doing to distract themselves from the roadway.
“We are still not blaming the construction zone for all the accidents — the drivers need to be held accountable,” Dye said. “But we are working with IDOT to help the zone. Even when workers are not present, troopers will be out.”