Five dead, five hurt in Illinois collision that leaked toxic substance


By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – A semi-truck carrying thousands of gallons of a toxic substance crashed in southern Illinois, and the multi-vehicle accident killed five people and left five seriously injured, officials said on Saturday.

The truck was carrying about 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia when it crashed late Friday near the city of Teutopolis in Effingham County, located about 105 miles northeast of St. Louis. Early estimates indicated that 4,000 gallons were spilled, leading to about 500 people being evacuated from the area, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency said.

The fatalities included two children younger than 12, and three of those killed were from the same family, the Effingham County Coroner’s office added. Five people were airlifted to local hospitals with injuries.

The accident led to an evacuation within a mile’s radius of the crash due to the plume from ammonia leak, state police said.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it will review the incident, which occurred about a half-mile east of Teutopolis on U.S. Highway 40.

Illinois State Police said it was notified about the crash “involving multiple vehicles, including a semi-truck that is leaking anhydrous ammonia.”

Ammonia is not, strictly speaking, a poison and repeated exposure produces no chronic effects on the human body, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. However, even in small concentrations in the air it can be extremely irritating to the eyes, throat, and breathing passages, according to OSHA. Very high levels may damage lungs.

A CBS-TV station report said the leak has been partially patched.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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