Illinois Family Among Five Dead in Toxic Semi-Truck Crash; 4000 Gallons of Deadly Chemical Spilled

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In a tragic incident, a father and his two young children from Illinois were among the five fatalities caused by exposure to deadly anhydrous ammonia following the crash of a semi-truck carrying thousands of gallons of the toxic chemical. The victims have been named as Kenneth Bryan, 34, his daughter Rosie, 7, and son Walker, 10. The other casualties were identified as Danny J. Smith, 67, and Vasile Cricovan, 31, as announced by the Effingham County Coroner’s Office.

The initial findings suggested that exposure to the leaked ammonia was the cause of their demise. Official autopsies are scheduled to take place in due course. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), comprising of 15 people including motor carrier, hazmat and survival factors investigators, arrived at the scene on Sunday.

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The exact sequence of the unfortunate events which unfolded started to take shape when another vehicle attempted to overtake the semi-truck. This led to the driver swerve to the right causing the truck to derail and roll over, resulting in the leakage of the hazardous cargo.

The truck contained roughly 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia during the crash that took place on Friday evening. Preliminary assessments from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency showed that more than half – about 4,000 gallons – spilled from the truck.

The noxious fumes from the accident led to several individuals being hospitalized, including five who had to be airlifted to nearby medical centers. The incident took place on US Highway 40 near Teutopolis, Illinois, located approximately 100 miles northeast of St. Louis, Missouri.

The NTSB is currently investigating whether the ill-fated tanker truck had been redirected onto a smaller highway due to a previous accident on Interstate 70. As the truck keeled over, it showed signs of jackknifing, puncturing the tank and leaving an approximate six-inch-wide hole.

Emergency evacuations were undertaken within a one-mile radius from the scene. Approximately 500 people had to abandon their homes but were allowed back on Saturday night as there was no further threat from the hazardous ammonia.

Efforts to manage the situation ensued overnight from Friday into Saturday. An attempt to patch part of the ruptured semi-truck took place, which although helped slow down the leakage, did not cease it entirely. The damaged tanker has been safely drained, patched, and moved to a secure location for further investigation. The Illinois State Police are coordinating the investigation into the cause of the accident.

Anhydrous ammonia is predominantly ammonia, over 99 percent in composition. It’s a diluted water solution that contains 5 to 10 percent ammonia for household use. High levels of exposure to this toxic chemical can lead to skin, mouth, throat, lung, and eye irritation or burns. In more severe cases, it can severely damage the lungs, or even result in fatality, according to health regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.