7 people are dead and several more injured after sandstorm leads to 20 vehicle crash in Utah

    (CNN) -- Seven people are dead and several more were critically injured when authorities say a sand or dust storm caused visibility issues that led to a series of crashes involving 20 vehicles in Utah Sunday evening.

The crashes happened on I-15 near Kanosh, the Utah Department of Public Service (DPS) said in a news release.

Several people were transported to local hospitals in critical condition, officials said. Authorities did not specify how many people were injured but noted there could be more fatalities.

"It appears that 20 vehicles were involved in Sunday's crashes after high winds caused a sand or dust storm and impaired visibility on the roadway," the release said. "The Utah Highway Patrol summoned troopers from Richfield and Beaver to assist. Multiple ground and air ambulances also responded to transport victims."

Images of the crash site show multiple tractor trailers and several damaged passenger vehicles littering the road, with debris scattered for yards. At least one vehicle appears to have had its passenger doors ripped off.

DPS closed the road in both directions following the crash, which occurred just before 5 p.m., officials said.

A strong thunderstorm was reported southeast of Kanosh around 4:30 p.m., with strong winds occurring as the storm decayed, CNN Meteorologist Gene Norman said. A nearby report of a 51-mph wind gust was also recorded.

Names of the victims won't be released until 24 hours after their families have been notified, the release said.

Kanosh is about 155 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

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