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Semi accidents stall I-55 traffic near Hamel, send one to hospital via helicopter

State police warned those driving on Interstate 55 near Hamel to prepare for stopped traffic as they responded to two tractor-trailer accidents Friday morning.

The second crash, around 10:45 a.m., happened when an 80-year-old O'Fallon man ran into the back of a semi as traffic came to a stop, according to Illinois State Police Trooper Calvin Dye Jr.

The 80-year-old man was taken by helicopter to St. Louis University Hospital and was expected to live, Dye said.

Dye noted the area in which the accident occurred not only the road goes down to one lane due to a construction zone, but was also stalled due to an earlier semi accident.

Before that, a semi driver told police that he was driving on I-55 near mile marker 29 — just three miles from where the second accident happened — when another semi swerved into his lane around 8:30 a.m. and caused him to crash into the center median. The semi was on its side, Dye said.

He said traffic was backed up for some time as police and tow truck crews worked to get the semi upright and towed.

"You know, it's the holiday weekend so we expect the roads to be bumper-to-bumper with people traveling to be with families over Easter weekend," Dye said.

He said three things contributed to the accidents: the congested traffic, the construction zone and the overturned semi.

Dye noted that yesterday as he and another trooper sat in their SUVs near an I-55 crash in the same area they saw the potential for six or seven more crashes, where drivers braked too late and stopped inches away from rear-ending someone, their brakes screeching.

The trooper said drivers need to slow their speeds to avoid accidents in that stretch of the highway. Illinois State Police responded to 16 crashes on highways Thursday.

This morning’s crashes occurred just a few miles from an eight-car pileup that killed four people and injured another 12 in November. Shortly after, in mid December, a woman died in a 10-car crash on Interstate 55 in the same area.

That stretch of I-55 experiences stand-still traffic due to construction.

Dana Rieck: 618-239-2642, @ByDanaRieck