SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A tragic tanker truck crash in central Illinois claimed the lives of five people after the truck, carrying caustic anhydrous ammonia, jackknifed and hit a utility trailer parked just off the highway. The incident occurred on U.S. 40 in Teutopolis, a small community about 110 miles northeast of St. Louis. According to Tom Chapman, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), preliminary findings suggest that another vehicle’s attempt to pass the chemical-laden truck may have triggered the deadly sequence of events.
The tanker truck’s impact with the utility trailer punctured a six-inch hole in the container holding the anhydrous ammonia, causing a major leak and hazardous conditions in the area. Effingham County Coroner Kim Rhodes confirmed that three of the deceased victims were from the same family, while the other two were adult motorists from out of state. The names of the victims have not been released, and the causes of their deaths were not discussed by authorities.
The crash, which occurred around 8:40 p.m. local time, prompted the evacuation of roughly 500 residents within a 1-mile radius as emergency crews worked to contain the leak and mitigate the dangerous air conditions. Five additional individuals were airlifted to hospitals, and their conditions remain unknown at this time.
Anhydrous ammonia is commonly used by farmers for nitrogen fertilizer and refrigeration purposes, but it is also known for its hazardous nature. In 2019, a leak of anhydrous ammonia in suburban Chicago sickened dozens of people, while a 2002 train derailment in North Dakota resulted in fatalities and numerous injuries caused by exposure to the chemical.
The aftermath of the Illinois crash necessitated careful cleanup efforts and posed significant challenges for emergency responders due to the shifting wind conditions. The tight-knit community of Teutopolis, with its 1,600 residents, was significantly impacted by the evacuation and subsequent air quality concerns.
The incident serves as a reminder of the risks associated with transporting hazardous materials, highlighting the importance of safety measures and precautions for those involved in handling such substances. As the investigation into the crash continues, authorities are working to determine the exact circumstances that led to the devastating accident and the subsequent loss of life.
Overall, the tanker truck crash in Teutopolis has brought attention to the potential dangers of transporting hazardous chemicals and the need for heightened vigilance and safety protocols to prevent similar tragedies in the future.