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5 killed after church van flips in southern Illinois


A church van that crashed near Vandalia, Illinois.

Five men were killed Monday when a church van carrying 11 passengers rolled over on Interstate 70 in southern Illinois, the Fayetteville County sheriff’s office confirmed.

It was unclear why the van, which was carrying members of a church group from a gathering in California to Pennsylvania, flipped near Vandalia, Ill., about 70 miles northeast of St. Louis. The van had Maryland license plates.

No bad weather was reported in the area at the time of the crash, according to the sheriff’s office.

Several people were taken to the hospital, some by medical helicopter, The Leader-Union in Vandalia reported on its web site

Four of the injured were taken to Fayette County Hospital in Vandalia and were in fair condition, a spokeswoman told The Associated Press. Two were taken to Greenville Regional Hospital in Greenville, Illinois, but their conditions were not immediately available. 

Eastbound I-70 was closed to traffic because of the rollover, NBC station KSDK in St. Louis reported.

According to a preliminary report from the Illinois State Police, the white 2002 Dodge 15-passenger van was eastbound on I-70 when it veered off the roadway and rolled multiple times, ejecting several passengers before coming to a stop.

All of the victims were men, Fayette County Coroner Bruce Bowen told KSDK.

Bowen told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that nine passengers were ejected from the van, including the five men who died. He said positive identification of the dead may take until Tuesday night.

The coroner also issued a cautionary note about such large-capacity vans in which passengers often do not wear safety belts.

“When you get a van loaded with that many people and you run into a problem, the weight shifts and it’s bound to go up on two wheels,” Bowen told the Post-Dispatch. 

Investigators were on the scene of the accident trying to determine the cause.