A semitruck carrying 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia overturned in a multi-vehicle crash in Illinois that killed five and sent five others to local hospitals, officials said Saturday.
The crash, which involved “multiple” vehicles, happened around 9:25 p.m. local time on U.S. Highway 40, about half a mile east of Teutopolis, Illinois, authorities said in a statement reviewed by CBS News. The impact of the accident caused the truck to leak. That prompted the evacuation of 500 people, according to a news release from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
According to initial estimates, about 4,000 gallons have been released, and the leak has been “partially contained,” the news release said.
Effingham County Coroner Kim Rhodes said five people died and five others were sent to hospitals in unknown condition.
An Illinois State Police official described the crash as “very serious” and the situation as “fluid.” Press conference on Saturday morning.
During the news conference, Effingham County Sheriff Paul Kuhns said there was a “huge plume” from the ammonia leak. An evacuation was ordered within a roughly one-mile radius of the crash because the spill caused “horribly hazardous air conditions northeast of Teutopolis,” Kuhns said.
Police said in an earlier statement that there were “multiple casualties” in connection with the crash. Officials declined to comment on the cause of death during a press conference.
Wind conditions meant emergency responders had to “wait” and “defuse conditions” before “getting real access” to the crash site, Kuhns said. Kuhns said the crash site covered “a very large area.” The highway between Teudopolis and Montrose is closed.
“We have a lot of brave firefighters, EMTs, hazmat specialists, police officers who are working on the scene as we speak,” Kuhns said.
National Transportation Safety Board X said in a statement shared on Saturday, The social media site, formerly known as Twitter, will coordinate with the Illinois State Police and the Effingham County Sheriff’s Department to investigate the crash.
Inhalation of toxic anhydrous ammonia is fatal at high concentrations. Ammonia can burn skin and eyes and cause severe respiratory injuries. At the news conference, an official called the object “terrible.”
Teutopolis is a city of over 1,600 people located 92 miles southeast of Springfield, Illinois, the state capital.
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The Associated Press contributed reporting.