The Illinois State Police update the media on a deadly crash and ammonia leak that happened Friday night.
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Illinois State Police and police, firefighters and paramedics from Teutopolis, Illinois responded about 8:46 p.m. Friday, September 29, 2023 to a report or a rollover semi-trailer tanker truck crash with a leaking fluid in the block of 19700 East Highway 40 on the east side of Teutopolis. The crash caused a leak of anhydrous ammonia on Highway 40 about one-half mile to one mile east of Teutopolis.
Upon arrival near the scene, police and firefighters discovered a multi-vehicle crash with a dangerous anhydrous ammonia cloud drifting toward the Village of Teutopolis. The immediate crash scene was not initially accessible by fire crews.
According to the Illinois EPA, a semi-truck was carrying approximately 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia at the time of the accident, which killed five people and injured multiple people. According to Teutopolis Fire Chief Tim McMahon, five people were airlifted (by medical transport helicopter) and one person was transported by ground ambulance to area hospitals. According to Effingham County Coroner Kim Rhodes, among the five people killed, two of the victims were children. Five of the patients were received at HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham, Illinois.
On Saturday it was reported that approximately 500 individuals had been evacuated from the area due to the anhydrous ammonia leak.
An early estimate indicated approximately 4,000 gallons were released, and the leak was partially patched, according to the Illinois EPA.
The Effingham County 9-1-1 emergency dispatch center received a report that multiple people were suffering from breathing the gases of an ammonia leak by about 8:48 p.m. At about 8:50 p.m. a 9-1-1 caller, who was difficult to understand because of his coughing, was located by cell phone technology — possibly about 1500 feet west of the crash scene. This caller was possibly the truck driver or another motorist who was involved in the crash. The victim managed to evacuate to a side road, but was having difficulty breathing as he was in the ammonia cloud. The driver reported that he did not see any rescuers nearby. He made it to 1950th Street near the railroad tracks south of Highway 40. Initially, the precise time that rescuers found the injured driver was not available.
According to a report from emergency dispatch, the winds were 5 MPH out of the northeast. At 8:55 p.m. the NWS office at Effingham County Memorial Airport reported that the wind was from the east at 5 MPH. Overnight (after midnight) the wind was calm until about 8:00 a.m. Saturday. Fire Chief Tim McMahon reported in a Saturday press conference that the local winds were shifting from multiple directions overnight.
A police officer arriving in the area reported that it appeared that police (apparently Illinois State Police troopers) on Interstate 70 had diverted traffic to Highway 40. An Illinois State Police trooper said in a press conference Saturday that the anhydrous ammonia tanker truck was in the diverted traffic from Interstate 70. There was possibly a significant amount of traffic on Highway 40 diverted from Interstate 70 due to an earlier crash on Interstate 70.
An earlier crash at 4:50 p.m. Friday on I-70 EAST near Montrose, Illinois caused a closure of I-70 EAST with a diversion along Highway 40 that goes through Teutopolis.
At least two farm house properties are located close to the north side of Highway 40 where the crash scene was located. First Salt Creek is also located about 800 feet north of where the crash scene was located.
A police officer blocking Highway 40 at St Francis Township Road reported he couldn’t stay at the road block at St Francis Township Road any longer because the cloud was too strong as it was coming in. St. Francis Township Road is located at the east edge of town. Highway 40 was closed between the evacuation area and Melrose, Illinois.
The evacuation area begins near the 4-way stop in Teutopolis at Main / Pearl and continues east on US Highway 40 to the area of 2100th St. Remain at least 1 mile north or south of US Highway 40, according to the Teutopolis Fire Protection District.
CAMEO is a system of software applications and weather instruments used widely to plan for and respond to chemical emergencies. CAMEO is one of the tools developed by EPA’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Response and Restoration (NOAA), to assist front-line chemical emergency planners and responders.
According to CAMEO Chemicals (Computer Operated Management of Emergency Operations), anhydrous ammonia vapors cause irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract. The chemical is poisonous; and may be fatal if inhaled. Contact with the chemical may cause burns to skin and eyes. Contact with the liquid form may cause frostbite (EPA, 1998).
Anhydrous ammonia is a clear colorless gas with a strong odor, and is shipped as a liquid under its own vapor pressure. The gas state is generally regarded as nonflammable, but does burn within certain vapor concentration limits and with strong ignition conditions. Fire hazard increases in the presence of oil or other combustible materials.
Although anhydrous ammonia gas is lighter than air, vapors from a leak initially hug the ground. Long-term inhalation of low concentrations of the vapors or short-term inhalation of high concentrations has adverse health effects. Injuries can be serious and permanent.
Prolonged exposure of containers to fire or heat may cause violent rupturing and rocketing of tanks or containers.
A MABAS Division 54 Box Alarm #6011 for the HazMat incident was activated about 9:18 p.m. Firefighters had to cover a large area near the crash scene looking for victims while maintaining their own safe air with SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) and PPE (personal protective equipment). HazMat units from much of central Illinois, including Champaign, responded to the scene with the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS).
Initially, an evacuation area with a one mile radius was ordered due to the hazardous plume cloud that was released at the crash scene. Evacuation was begun by at 9:25 p.m. Initially, radio reports indicated the Village of Teutopolis was to be evacuated. The population of Teutopolis is about 1,618, according to the United States Census Bureau.
A staging area was set up at Teutopolis High School, which is located about one mile west of St. Francis Township Road, and more than one mile west of the crash scene.
Anhydrous ammonia is used as a fertilizer, as a refrigerant, and in the manufacture of other chemicals. Density (liquid) 6 lb / gal.
AREA NEAR CRASH SCENE …
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Representatives from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA), Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security (IEMA-OHS), Illinois State Police (ISP), and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) were assigned to the scene were coordinating the response with local Police and Fire Departments and the Effingham County Emergency Management Agency in response to the multi-vehicle accident involving a semi-truck transporting anhydrous ammonia.
Representatives from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) were also assigned to the scene, and additional U.S. EPA contractors along with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were also en route to the scene.
The National Weather Service was also assisting with calculating the area and movement of the ammonia cloud, and with specific forecasting conditions.
The Teutopolis Fire Protection District reported at 1:22 p.m. Saturday that the scene was still a working scene while hazards still exist. Locally, Montrose Fire Protection District, Dieterich FIRE, and RuralMed Effingham County were providing mutual aid assistance to the Teutopolis Fire Protection District.
The coordinated response currently underway includes:
• A contractor hired by the responsible tanker truck is en route to the scene to review the situation and advise on the best plan to safely empty the tanker.
• A U.S. EPA Contractor is en route to support any air monitoring requests from incident command.
• Illinois EPA personnel have been deployed to the site in support of operations.
• ISP continues to support local law enforcement and emergency personnel. Troopers are handling check points with IDOT. Once the scene is clear, ISP will investigate the cause of the crash.
• IDOT has closed Route 40 between Effingham and Montrose.
• The evacuation area is from Pearle Street in Teutopolis, along Route 40 to 2100 North Road, North to I-70, west to Pearle Street.
• The evacuation is expected to remain in place at least through Sunday morning. Resident in the evacuation zone should not return to the area until it has been lifted by local emergency officials.
• IEMA-OHS (Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security) has been deployed to the scene in support of on scene operations.
• A team from NTSB will also be on-scene to investigate the incident.
Information regarding the fatalities is being provided by the Effingham County Coroner’s Office.
Additional information will be provided through the Incident Command, according to the Illinois EPA.
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An update at noon on Saturday, Sept. 30 on the HAZMAT situation unfolding in Teutopolis (WCIA). YouTube Tips ⓘ