HAMPSHIRE, Ill. (AP) -- A tractor-trailer plowed into the back of a tour bus Wednesday afternoon, setting off a chain reaction crash that killed eight people on Interstate 90, state police said.
The dead were all members of an international women's group that had taken a daytrip from Chicago to Rockford, officials said.
Seven people were pronounced dead at the scene and 16 were taken to hospitals, police and fire officials said. One of those died at a hospital Wednesday night, according to state police trooper Doug Whitmore. At least five others were in critical condition.
Whitmore said traffic was slowed for a toll plaza when a tractor-trailer slammed into the back of the tour bus, pushing it into the back of another rig. He said the bus was pushed through the trailer of the second truck and onto the median. A pickup truck then slammed into the second tractor-trailer, which hit a third rig.
Whitmore said the scene ``looked like a plane crash,'' with wreckage strewn about the highway and median, and bodies on the ground.
``I've been on the job for 17 years and this is one of the worst cases I have seen,'' he said.
The crash was still being investigated Wednesday night. No citations had been issued.
Whitmore said all the fatalities and most of the injuries were aboard the tour bus, which was operated by Leisure Pursuit Charters. Kevin Conroy, the company president, called the accident a tragedy, but said he had no details on it.
The bus was carrying 22 members of International Women Associates back to Chicago from a trip to a Japanese floral exhibit in Rockford, said the group's founder, Doe Thornburg. The group offers support for women from overseas and in the diplomatic field, she said.
``We're all in a state of heartbreak and shock,'' she said in a telephone interview as she headed from the group's Chicago headquarters to identify the victims' bodies.
Traffic on I-90 was closed in both direction after the accident for about four hours. Hampshire is about 50 miles west of Chicago.
Thomas Gartner, a state trooper, was one of the first police officers on the scene. He said about 25 motorists were gathered around the bus, trying to remove the injured.
``It was a very confusing scene,'' Gartner said. ``We tried to get some of the people off the bus. It was hard because basically the bus had collapsed in on itself.''