Federal regulators are investigating a fatal crash involving a semitruck carrying a toxic substance in central Illinois. The incident resulted in “multiple fatalities” and led to dangerous air conditions that necessitated the evacuation of nearby residents. The crash occurred near Teutopolis, and emergency responders are working to contain the cloud of anhydrous ammonia that leaked from the overturned tanker. The exact number of casualties is currently unknown, and authorities are uncertain whether the deaths occurred as a result of the accident or the chemical leak. Anhydrous ammonia is commonly used as a nitrogen fertilizer by farmers and as a refrigerant in large buildings.
The accident took place on U.S. Highway 40, and shifting winds posed challenges for the crews working overnight to handle the situation. The tanker began leaking after rolling over in a ditch, and cars are currently prohibited from entering the affected area. Residents within a one-mile radius of the spill have been evacuated. Complicating matters is an earlier accident on Interstate 70, which forced traffic to detour along U.S. Highway 40, passing through Teutopolis. Anhydrous ammonia is known to be hazardous, causing burns and respiratory issues when inhaled.
This is not the first incident involving anhydrous ammonia. In 2019, dozens of people fell ill in suburban Chicago after valves were left open on tanks transporting the substance. A toxic gas cloud was formed, resulting in hospitalizations. In 2002, a train derailment in North Dakota released anhydrous ammonia, causing one fatality and numerous injuries. Truck drivers transporting toxic substances must have a hazardous material endorsement and undergo additional training and testing. The accident scene is heavily restricted as authorities focus their efforts on managing the spill, and residents are urged to remain patient during the ongoing investigation.