Five people, including three from central Illinois, are reported to have been killed in a truck crash on U.S. Highway 40 in Effingham County, Illinois.
The tragedy occurred on September 29, 2023, when several vehicles were involved in a crash near Teutopolis, about 75 miles from the state’s capital, Springfield. At least five other people were injured and airlifted to area hospitals for treatment. Responders in hazmat suits tried to rescue those involved and clean up the highway, which area residents in the tight-knit community called a catastrophe.
A truck carrying about 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia rolled over in a ditch causing the toxic substance to leak out and forcing the evacuation of several hundred residents in the area until late September 30, 2023. About 4,000 gallons reportedly were released in the air. Exposure to anhydrous ammonia exposure can cause breathing difficulty, irritation of the eyes, nose or throat, and burns or blisters.
The Chicago Tribune reported that in addition to having a commercial driver’s license, the person behind the wheel of a toxic-substance tanker must study further and successfully complete a test for a hazardous material endorsement, according to Don Schaefer, CEO of the Mid-West Truckers Association.
“All truck drivers and trucking companies are strictly regulated by the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Regulations, however, those that transport hazardous materials have even much stricter requirements under the regulations,” said Kevin P. Durkin, partner at Clifford Law Offices and who has successfully tried a number of trucking crash cases, some to record verdicts and settlements. “A thorough investigation of this horrific accident is needed to determine the failures that led to this in order to enhance public safety. While the NTSB likely will investigate this as will the Illinois State Police, the results will be months off. An immediate investigation is needed to protect the interests of the injured and the families who lost loved ones. Clifford Law Offices has conducted many of these investigations in the past and it is important to hire someone who has experience and knows how to get to the bottom of what occurred.”
A 15-member team from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are reportedly at the scene and officials expect to hold a press conference on October 1, 2023. Illinois State Police reportedly continue to investigate the scene as the highway remains closed.