Tragic Tanker Truck Crash in Illinois Claims Five Lives and Forces Large-Scale Evacuation

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – A tragic tanker truck crash in central Illinois has left five people dead, with federal transportation officials suggesting that the incident may have started when another vehicle tried to pass the chemical-laden truck. The crash occurred on U.S. 40 in Teutopolis, about 110 miles northeast of St. Louis, and involved a tanker carrying caustic anhydrous ammonia.

According to Tom Chapman, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, the tanker truck jackknifed and hit a utility trailer parked just off the highway, causing a six-inch hole in the chemical container. This led to a spillage of roughly half the truck’s 7,500-gallon load. The rest of the chemical was drained and moved to a secure location for investigation by the NTSB.

Effingham County Coroner Kim Rhodes confirmed that the five victims included three members of the same family and two adult motorists from out of state. Additionally, five people were airlifted to hospitals, with their conditions remaining unknown.

The accident prompted the evacuation of around 500 residents within a 1-mile radius of the crash site, including northeastern parts of Teutopolis, a town of 1,600 people. Emergency crews worked overnight to control the leak and struggled to access the crash site due to dangerous air conditions caused by the spilled anhydrous ammonia.

Anhydrous ammonia is commonly used by farmers to fertilize soil and as a refrigerant in large buildings. However, it is also considered a hazardous material when transported and requires specific endorsements and training for those handling it.

In 2019, dozens of people were sickened in suburban Chicago after a similar incident involving anhydrous ammonia, and in 2002, a train derailment released the chemical in North Dakota, causing fatalities and injuries.

The aftermath of the crash in Teutopolis serves as a grim reminder of the dangers posed by hazardous materials and the importance of strict adherence to safety protocols when handling and transporting such substances.