UNITED STATES NEWS

Truck accident in Illinois causes “multiple” deaths and an ammonia leak that leads to an evacuation

Sep 30, 2023, 12:57 AM | Updated: 10:50 am

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Federal regulators confirmed Saturday they are reviewing the crash of a semitruck carrying a toxic substance in central Illinois, resulting in “multiple fatalities” and dangerous air conditions that prompted the evacuation of area residents.

Jennifer Gabris, a spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the agency is investigating the incident that occurred near Teutopolis.

Firefighters, police and other emergency responders who converged on the scene late Friday were still on site Saturday to try to contain the cloud of anhydrous ammonia that emanated from the overturned tanker.

“We have a lot of brave firemen, EMT, hazmat specialists, police officers that are working on this scene as we speak,” Effingham County Sheriff Paul Kuhns said at a Saturday press conference.

Authorities did not say exactly how many people were killed or injured.

“I am sorry to say that we do have multiple fatalities,” Kuhns said. “And I’m sorry to say I don’t have that exact number for you.”

Illinois State Police spokesperson Melaney Arnold said authorities initially thought there were five fatalities, but that turned out to be a premature determination amid the early confusion.

The accident caused “a large plume, cloud of anhydrous ammonia on the roadway that caused terribly dangerous air conditions in the northeast area of Teutopolis,” Kuhns said. “Because of these conditions, the emergency responders had to wait. They had to mitigate the conditions before they could really get to work on it, and it was a fairly large area.”

Although not strong, crews working overnight struggled against shifting wind.

“The wind changed three or four different times on us,” said Tim McMahon, chief of the Teutopolis Fire Protection District. “That’s another reason we got crews out in different places, reporting back on which way the wind’s going.”

The accident, which involved “multiple” vehicles including the tanker, happened about a half-mile east of Teutopolis on U.S. Highway 40 on Friday at about 9:25 p.m., Illinois State Police said in an emailed statement.

McMahon said the tanker began leaking after rolling over in a ditch. He said authorities are still preventing cars from driving in that area. Residents within a one-mile radius of the spill — largely on the east end of Teutopolis — were evacuated. The town of 1,600 people is about 110 miles (177 kilometers) northeast of St. Louis.

Kuhns said he did not have information on whether the deaths were the result of the crash itself or the chemical leak. But he said that “the accident scene was large.”

Complicating matters was that an accident on Interstate 70 earlier Friday forced a detour of traffic east along U.S. Highway 40, which bisects Teutopolis.

Anhydrous ammonia is used by farmers to add nitrogen fertilizer to the soil, and it’s also used as a refrigerant in the cooling systems of large buildings such as warehouses and factories. According to the American Chemical Society, it is carried around the United States by pipeline, trucks and trains.

In 2019, dozens of people were sickened in suburban Chicago after the valves were left open on tanks of anhydrous ammonia being transported from a farm in Wisconsin to one in Illinois, creating a toxic gas cloud and sickening dozens of people. Seven people were initially hospitalized in critical condition after a leaking anhydrous ammonia tank pulled by a tractor released the plume over the northern Chicago suburb of Beach Park.

And in 2002, a train derailment released anhydrous ammonia in Minot, North Dakota, killing one man and hundreds of other people reported injuries including burns and breathing problems.

“It’s terrible. It’s bad stuff if you are involved in breathing it, especially because it gets in your airways, in your lungs and it burns,” Kuhns said.

In addition to having a commercial driver’s license, the person behind the wheel of a toxic-substance tanker must study further and successfully complete a test for a hazardous material endorsement, said Don Schaefer, CEO of the Mid-West Truckers Association.

“Once you get that endorsement, there are no restrictions — unless otherwise posted — on hauling hazardous materials on a public highway,” Schaefer said. “But you’re subject to higher scrutiny.”

As of midday Saturday, the accident scene was still heavily blockaded. Kuhns apologized for any inconvenience from the investigation and the evacuation.

“I understand how frustrating that would be to not be allowed to travel or to go back home, but we really need to focus our resources on the spill and on the situation,” Kuhns said. “So if people can have as much patience, that’s what I would ask for.”

___

Slevin reported from Denver. Associated Press writers Pamela Sampson in Atlanta and Kathleen Foody in Chicago contributed.

United States News

Associated Press

3 Columbia University administrators put on leave over alleged text exchange at antisemitism panel

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University said it has placed three administrators on leave while it investigates allegations that they exchanged unprofessional text messages while attending a panel discussion about antisemitism on campus. The university said the administrators work for its undergraduate Columbia College, which hosted the panel discussion “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Man charged in shooting that critically wounded Philadelphia officer, police say

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A 36-year-old Philadelphia man was charged Sunday with attempted murder in connection with a shooting that critically wounded a police officer after a traffic stop, police said. Ramon Rodriguez Vazquez also faces charges that include aggravated assault and home invasion, police said. The 31-year-old officer and his partner stopped a car carrying […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

California boy, 4, who disappeared from campground found safe after 22 hours alone in wilderness

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A 4-year-old California boy who wandered away from a campground in the Sierra National Forest was found safe after spending 22 hours alone in the wilderness, authorities said. A search-and-rescue team of about 50 officers and volunteers set out around 11 a.m. Thursday after the child was reported missing from the […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

One man died and five others were hospitalized in downtown St. Louis shooting

ST. LOUIS (AP) — One man is dead and five others have been wounded in a downtown St. Louis shooting, police said. Police believe women were fighting in a park when men interfered and drew firearms, according to social media posts from the agency. The man who died was in his mid-twenties, police said. Five […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Michigan sheriff’s deputy fatally shot pursuing a stolen vehicle in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan county sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot while pursing a suspected stolen vehicle in Detroit, the Oakland County sheriff’s office said Sunday. Bradley J. Reckling, who was on duty in an unmarked car, was following a 2022 Chevy Equinox Saturday evening after the vehicle was reported stolen earlier in the day […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Triple-shooting suspect captured after intensive search across Colorado farmland

ALAMOSA, Colorado (AP) — The suspect in a shooting that left one person dead and two others with critical injuries was captured Sunday following an intensive search across a huge area of southern Colorado. Officers went door to door as aircraft searched overhead for Henry Corral, 44, who authorities said had taken off on foot […]

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

Truck accident in Illinois causes “multiple” deaths and an ammonia leak that leads to an evacuation