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Interstate wreck near Chicago kills 8

Emercency vehicles respond to a fatal wreck that shut down Interstate 90 Wednesday.
Emercency vehicles respond to a fatal wreck that shut down Interstate 90 Wednesday.

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Disasters and Accidents
Chicago (Illinois)

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- At least eight people were killed and 15 injured Wednesday afternoon in a chain-reaction wreck on Interstate 90 in Hampshire, Illinois, 60 miles west of Chicago, Illinois State Police said.

Trooper Douglas Whitmore said traffic was coming to a stop about a half-mile from a toll booth when a tractor-trailer failed to slow down just before 3 p.m. (4 p.m. EDT) in the eastbound lanes of the interstate. It rammed into the back of another tractor trailer, which then hit the bus, he said.

Another tractor-trailer then hit a pickup truck, ripping the smaller vehicle nearly in two.

From television helicopters above the crash scene, the bus could be seen with one side shorn off, stopped in the median. The trailer of one of the diesels was turned on its side. Debris stretched across both sides of the interstate.

Five of the injured were in critical condition, eight were serious, and two had minor injuries, police said. Three helicopters airlifted victims to various hospitals.

Whitmore said most of the victims were women travelling in the bus.

They were part of the Chicago-based International Women Associates, and had been to see the Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois, about two hours outside of Chicago, said founder Doe Thornberg.

She said it was her understanding that all of the victims were from her group.

Thornberg said she established the group 25 years ago to bring together corporate wives and women who are corporate executives or diplomatic agents from various countries. The group has 450 members from 60 countries, she said.

"To have this happen is just very, very heart-wrenching for all of us," Thornberg told CNN. "We're all very close friends. It just happens that there's a certain spirit in the group that invites that, and I know that there will be many broken hearts this week."

After the wreck, police were seen taking women's purses out of the mangled bus and laying them side by side on the grassy median.

Traffic was backed up on both sides of the interstate for about three hours after the wreck, but police reopened both directions by Wednesday night, said Sgt. Glenn DeVries.

CNN producer Grace Ramirez contributed to this report.

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