Driving safely in dangerous conditions

MAHOMET -- A first responder recalls the horrific details of a dust storm in which a 16-year old student died after being involved in a car crash.

Sophomore Jacob Hamilton was driving along Route 36 when a dust storm hit the area. Firefighters, from Tuscola, were among the first to reach the scene.

Now, they're advising drivers what to do if caught in a similar situation.

"It's as close as I've ever been to being on two different planets."

In the 21-years Brian Moody has been a firefighter, he says he's never seen a wall of dirt that large.

"That's the closest thing I can think to describe, being on the ground in the middle of a tornado."

He was one of the first responders on the scene where Jacob was killed.

"It was clear the car had rear-ended the semi ahead of it. Very evident it came across the semi and not saw it. Came at the very last minute, very little reaction time."

The dust was so massive, it caused others in the area to fall victim to its force.

"The big accident was the front, but I believe there were 12, 13 cars total."

The tragic accident has many wondering what can be done if they're in a similar situation. The biggest thing to do is avoid it.

"The other big piece of advice is to stay in your vehicle. You are much safer in that vehicle than as soon as you get out. That's going to be how you're most protected."

But, if you are involved, just keep going.

"What I would suggest is going to a reduced speed and inching your way forward until you can get out of that cloud."

Chief Moody also says to check advisories before driving.

A visitation service for Jacob is Monday, 3 pm, at the First Christian Church in Champaign. The funeral is a private service for the family with a dinner for friends afterwards.


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