SPRINGFIELD (AP) – Five people were killed and five were seriously injured after a truck overturned in central Illinois, United States causing a toxic substance to leak from its cargo and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of area residents, authorities said.
A semitruck carrying caustic anhydrous ammonia toppled about 9.25pm in Teutopolis, spilling more than half its 7,500-gallon load, according to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
Effingham County Coroner Kim Rhodes said the five dead included three from the same family – one adult and two children under 12. The other two were adult motorists from out of state, Rhodes said.
Additionally, five people were airlifted to hospitals, their conditions unknown.
Names of the victims were not released, nor would authorities discuss causes of death.
About 500 residents within 1.6-kilometre radius of the crash site were evacuated after the accident, including northeastern parts of Teutopolis. Late on Saturday night, Teutopolis Fire Protection District Assistant Chief Joe Holomy said testing found the area was safe for residents to return home.
Emergency crews worked overnight after the accident trying to control the plume from the leak and struggled to get near the crash site.
“We have a lot of brave firemen, EMT, hazmat specialists, police officers that are working on this scene as we speak,” Effingham County Sheriff Paul Kuhns said at a Saturday morning news conference.
As of midday on Saturday, the accident scene was still heavily blockaded. Kuhns apologised for any inconvenience from the investigation and the evacuation.
Private and federal environmental contractors were summoned to recommend a cleanup procedure in Teutopolis, a town of 1,600 about 177 kilometres northeast of St Louis.
The National Transportation Safety Board will review the crash, spokesperson Jennifer Gabris told The Associated Press.
“The accident caused a large plume, cloud of anhydrous ammonia on the roadway that caused terribly dangerous air conditions in the northeast area of Teutopolis,” Kuhns said.
“Because of these conditions, the emergency responders had to wait. They had to mitigate the conditions before they could really get to work on it, and it was a fairly large area.”
Although not strong, crews working overnight struggled against shifting wind.
“The wind changed three or four different times on us,” said Chief of the Teutopolis Fire Protection District Tim McMahon.
“That’s another reason we got crews out in different places, reporting back on which way the wind’s going.”