A multi-vehicle accident in Illinois involving a semitruck transporting anhydrous ammonia resulted in “multiple fatalities,” the Illinois State Police revealed to CBS News on Saturday.
According to a police statement seen by CBS News, the accident, which involved “multiple” automobiles, occurred on U.S. Highway 40 about a half-mile east of Teutopolis, Illinois, on Friday at around 9:25 p.m. local time. According to authorities, the vehicle started to leak as a result of the collision, forcing a partial evacuation of the neighborhood.
A representative of the Illinois State Police described the situation as “fluid” and “very serious” during a news conference that was held on Saturday morning.
Effingham County Sheriff Paul Kuhns mentioned a “large plume” from the ammonia leak during the news conference. A one-mile radius around the crash was ordered to be evacuated due to the leak’s “terribly dangerous air conditions in the northeast area of Teutopolis,” according to Kuhns.
There “are multiple fatalities” connected to the collision, according to a statement from the police. Neither the announcement nor the morning press conference immediately provided the precise number of fatalities. Officials chose not to address the circumstances behind the fatalities during the news conference. Tim McMahon, the chief of the Teutopolis fire department, said that five patients were airlifted and one patient was taken by ground to local hospitals. It’s unclear how they were feeling or why they were being moved.
Emergency personnel had to “wait” and “mitigate the conditions” due to the air quality before they could “get actual access” to the crash site, according to Kuhns. The accident site, according to Kuhns, spanned a “fairly large area.”
Between Teutopolis and Montrose, there is a closed highway. As of 9:15 a.m. local time on Saturday, workers were attempting to stop the leak and cleanup work was still being done.
Kuhns stated, “We have a lot of heroic firemen, EMT, hazmat experts, and police officers that are working on the area right now.
Anhydrous ammonia is poisonous and can be lethal if inhaled at high doses. In addition to causing severe respiratory damage, the ammonia can burn the skin and eyes. During the press briefing, one official referred to the chemical as “terrible.”
A little more than 1,600 people live in Teutopolis, which is 92 miles southeast of Springfield, Illinois, the state’s capital.
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Reporting was provided by The Associated Press.