Tragic Accident in Illinois: Father and Two Children among Five Killed in Ammonia Truck Crash
TEUTOPOLIS, ILLINOIS – A devastating accident on Friday evening has left five people dead and several others injured, according to Illinois officials. The incident occurred when a semi-truck carrying thousands of gallons of anhydrous ammonia crashed, resulting in exposure to the toxic substance.
The local medical examiner’s office has identified the victims as Kenneth Bryan, 34, and his two children, Rosie, 7, and Walker, 10, along with Danny J. Smith, 67, and Vasile Cricovan, 31, according to a release from the Effingham County Coroner’s Office.
Preliminary examinations suggest that all five individuals died from exposure to the leaked ammonia, and official autopsies will commence on Monday, the office stated.
Following the accident, a 15-person team from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrived at the scene on Sunday to conduct investigations. The NTSB team includes motor carrier, hazmat, and survival factors investigators, as confirmed by NTSB spokesperson Jennifer Gabris.
During a media briefing on Sunday, the NTSB revealed the sequence of events leading up to the crash. It appears that another vehicle attempted to pass the semi-truck, causing the driver to react by pulling to the right. As a result, the tanker truck veered off the roadway, rolled over, and compromised the cargo tank.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency reported that the tanker truck was carrying approximately 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia at the time of the accident. Early estimates indicate that over half of the substance, around 4,000 gallons, was released.
Numerous individuals were hospitalized due to ammonia exposure, with five requiring airlifting to local medical facilities, according to the coroner’s office.
The crash occurred on US Highway 40 near Teutopolis, Illinois, located about 100 miles northeast of St. Louis, Missouri. Investigators are now looking into whether the tanker truck was rerouted onto this smaller highway due to an earlier accident on Interstate 70.
The tanker truck jackknifed during the rollover, causing the head end of the tank to come into contact with the hitch on a utility trailer. This collision punctured the cargo tank, creating a hole approximately 6 inches in diameter.
Around 500 people within a 1-mile radius of the crash were evacuated from parts of Teutopolis but were allowed to return home on Saturday night, as testing indicated that the danger from the anhydrous ammonia had dissipated.
Crews worked tirelessly overnight to patch the rupture on the semi-truck, slowing down the leak but not fully stopping it, according to Teutopolis Fire Chief Tim McMahon.
The crashed tanker has since been drained, patched, and transported to a secure location for further investigation by the NTSB, as confirmed by the state emergency management agency.
Anhydrous ammonia is a highly concentrated form of ammonia, consisting of over 99 percent ammonia. It is commonly used in agriculture as a fertilizer. Household ammonia, on the other hand, is a diluted water solution containing 5 to 10 percent ammonia.
Ammonia exposure can cause irritation and burns to the skin, mouth, throat, lungs, and eyes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At very high levels, it can also lead to lung damage or death. Symptoms of exposure include difficulty breathing, irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat, and burns or blisters.
The Illinois State Police are also conducting an investigation into the cause of the accident.
As the community mourns the loss of five lives in this tragic incident, authorities continue their efforts to uncover the circumstances surrounding the crash and prevent future accidents involving hazardous materials.