Ammonia Exposure Revealed as Likely Cause of Truckers’ Deaths

( – The National Transportation Safety Board and state and local authorities are investigating a tanker truck rollover crash that resulted in the deaths of five individuals. The truck was hauling anhydrous ammonia, a toxic gas that is used as a fertilizer by farmers. The crash occurred on the night of September 29 on U.S. Route 40 in Effingham County, Illinois. Sheriff Paul Kuhns said that the 4,000 gallons of the toxic chemical created “terribly dangerous air conditions.” The spill resulted in the mandatory evacuation of 500 nearby residents for nearly 24 hours. Besides the five who died, seven additional people were treated at hospitals from driving past the wreckage.

Thirty-four-year-old Kenneth Bryan and his two children died at the crash site. The family was from the nearby town of Teutopolis. Sixty-seven-year-old Danny Smith of New Haven, Missouri, along with 31-year-old Vasile Crivovan of Twinsburg, Ohio, also died. Although autopsies are being conducted on the victims, the coroner believes that they died as a result of being exposed to anhydrous ammonia. Four of the seven other individuals who were treated were reported to be teenagers. Two of them were admitted to the hospital because of the exposure.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also visited the scene of the accident. Nutrien Ltd. told Reuters that the anhydrous ammonia belonged to them but was being transported by another company. Nutrien also said that although no employees or any of its equipment were a part of the accident, “the safety and the well-being of the community and environment remain our top priorities.” Farmers have used anhydrous ammonia for nearly 70 years, mostly for fertilizing corn to increase yields. It is also used as a refrigerant worldwide but is a highly regulated chemical. It is also used for the manufacture of methamphetamine, which is why farmers must keep their supplies locked up and under surveillance. Those who handle the chemical must undergo safety training and take extreme precautions to prevent accidents.

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