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Motorist’s attempt to pass tanker truck leaves five dead from chemical exposure, officials say 

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Five people died of exposure to harmful chemicals spilled in a wreck involving a tanker truck leak and a passing motorist late last week.

The accident happened on Friday night, September 29th in Effingham County, Illinois on US Highway 40. 

According to CNN, five people were killed in the wreck. Initial examination shows that the five individuals died from exposure to anhydrous ammonia that leaked as a result of the tanker truck crash. Official autopsies will begin on Monday, October 2nd. 

“Preliminary information indicates that another vehicle may have been involved in a passing maneuver near the tanker truck. The driver of the truck appears to have reacted by pulling to the right,” said National Transportation Safety Board member Tom Chapman. “The tanker truck departed the roadway. After departing the roadway, the truck rolled over, and the cargo tank was compromised.”

“As it rolled over, the tanker truck jackknifed and exposed the head end of the tank,” Chapman continued. “As momentum carried the tank forward, it came into contact with the hitch on the utility trailer. The hitch punctured the cargo tank, leaving a hole approximately 6 inches in diameter.”

Crews worked overnight Friday and into Saturday to patch the rupture on the tanker, which slowed the leak but did not stop it. The crashed tanker truck was eventually drained, patched, and moved to a safe location to be investigated by the NTSB.

Approximately 4,000 out of 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia was released after the Friday night wreck. Five people died of exposure, and at least five more were hospitalized. Around 500 people were evacuated from residences within a one mile radius of the crash in Teutopolis, and did not return until Saturday evening when Teutopolis Assistant Fire Chief Joe Holomy said that “testing has indicated that the danger from the anhydrous ammonia has dissipated.”

Of the five people killed through exposure to the substance, two were children. 34-year-old Kenneth Bryan and his two children, 7-year-old Rosie and 10-year-old Walker, died of exposure. 67-year-old Danny J. Smith and 31-year-old Vasile Cricovan also died from exposure to the substance. 

The status of the truck driver involved in the wreck is unclear. The NTSB believes that the tanker truck may have been rerouted from Interstate 70 onto the smaller Highway 40 due to an earlier wreck on the interstate. The board is investigating.

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