Update at 5:45 p.m. on Oct. 1 – Emergency response teams are wrapping up their operations in Teutopolis, Illinois State Police announced.
Since Friday night, a number of local, state and even federal agencies have worked together in responding to 4,000 gallons of leaked anhydrous ammonia. Those agencies included the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, Teutopolis Fire Protection District, Illinois Departments of Transportation and Public Health, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Teutopolis residents were allowed to return to their homes before 8 p.m. on Saturday, with law enforcement lifting evacuations along affected areas. Law enforcement also cleared the scene of all involved vehicles and Route 40 was reopened to traffic.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will continue to address any contamination resulting from the incident while the Illinois State Police continues its investigation into the crash, including traffic crash reconstruction.
“IDPH is working with our local health department partner to monitor the situation and provide needed support,” IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said. “We remind residents to ventilate their homes upon return. If they detect unusual odors, they should leave immediately and call 911.”
Vohra added that the IDPH is working on guidance for testing private water wells by the crash scene to check for possible contamination. The IDPH will also remain in consultation with the local health department and the Illinois Department of Agriculture regarding animals and livestock in the area, and procedures for veterinary evaluation.
The Illinois State Police extended their gratitude to all agencies and first responders involved in assisting the situation.
“I am impressed with the quality and amount of assistance received from the local and state agencies,” Effingham County Sheriff Paul Kuhns said.
For additional information about the five fatalities, people may contact the Effingham County Coroner’s Office.
Update at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 1 – The Effingham County Coroner has released the names of the three adults and two children who died as a result of a Friday’s ammonia leak.
Update at 3:50 p.m. on Oct. 1 — Tom Chapman, a Board Member of the National Transportation Safety Board, addressed the media on Sunday to give an update and offer new information about the deadly HAZMAT crash in Teutopolis.
Chapman said the NTSB’s investigation is one regarding safety, parallel to an Illinois State Police investigation into the crash. The NTSB is interested in issues related to cargo tank crash worthiness, hazardous materials routing and operartions of the truck.
“Our mission is to understand not just what happened, but why it happened and to reccomend changes to prevent it from happening again,” Chapman said.
The ISP will be the ones who determine why the crash occured, and so far, they’ve uncovered some details about the cause.
The ISP investigation determined that the tanker was operated by Prairie Land Transport Limited of Brownstown, a town west of Effingham that Route 40 runs through and which is located just north of Interstate 70. At 8:40 p.m. on Friday, the tanker was driving westbound on Route 40 near Teutopolis when another vehicle may have tried to pass the tanker, which caused the driver to swerve to the right and the truck ran off the road.
The truck subsequently rolled over and jackknifed, exposing the front of the tank. Chapman added that momentum carried the tank toward a small utility trailer that was parked illegally near the side of the road. The front of the tank hit the utility trailer’s hitch, which tore a six-inch-diameter hole into the tank.
There was 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia in the tank, and approximately half of it leaked out through the hole. Chapman explained that anhydrous ammonia is commonly used for industrial and agricultural purposes, and it is both caustic and hazardous in its concentrated form.
Chapman added that while HAZMAT incidents involving anhydrous ammonia have occured in the past, they are usually of smaller scale. Larger quantities of anhydrous ammonia are usually offloaded into smaller “nurse tanks” used for agricultural purposes. The nurse tanks are where anhydroius ammonia incidents occur, not larger transport tankers.
Chapman said the NTSB investigate team will be on-scene for four to six days and a prelimianry report is expected to be published in about 30 days. Final reports will take between one and two years to complete.
Chapman also encouraged witnesses of the crash or anyone with additional imnformation about the crash, including video footage, to email the NTSB at email@example.com.
Update at 11:23 a.m. on Oct. 1 – Illinois State Police said U.S. Route 40 will be closed again from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. as officials investigate Friday night’s crash.
According to a Facebook post from ISP Troop 9, U.S. Route 40 from St. Francis Township and Effingham County North 1950th Road will be closed. Traffic will be rerouted in Montrose south to Dieterich and back onto U.S. Route 33 from Effingham. In Effingham, truck traffic will reroute from Fayette Avenue and Willow Street to U.S. Route 33, to Dietrich, and back north to U.S. Route 40.
National Transportation Safety Board crews are in the area and are working with local authorities on the investigation. They plan to address the public later this afternoon.
Update at 9:15 a.m. on Oct. 1 – U.S. Route 40 has been reopened to traffic after spending over 24 hours shut down.
The Teutopolis Fire Protection has also issued a statement, thanking the many people who assisted in the disaster response. That includes their mutual aid partners, law enforcement, IDOT, flight crews of medevac helicopters, Effingham School District and neighbors in the area.
The TFPD’s full statement can be found here.
Update at 10:50 p.m. on Sept. 30 – The tanker has been removed from the scene, but at last check Route 40 remains closed between town. It is likely to open overnight tonight.
WCIA 3 News at 10 has been posted above for updates on the situation.
Update at 7:30 p.m. – Effingham County authorities said people are now allowed back into their homes 22 hours after the crash that prompted an evacuation of Teutopolis.
Teutopolis Fire Chief Tim McMahon said all of the remining ammonia inside the crashed tanker has been offloaded from the scene. The tanker remains on the scene and Illinois State Police are now investigating without chemical hazards present.
Route 40 will remain closed until further notice, but officials said it may reopen later Saturday night.
Once people return home, they are advised to open all of the windows in their homes to air them out. Anyone who smells a strong odor or who starts to feel sick is advised to call 911 immediately and have the home checked by fire personnel.
Meanwhile, some firefighters from outside of Effingham County are starting to return to their jurisdictions. The Danville Fire Department confirmed its HAZMAT team was on scene but added that the team is no longer needed and was told to stand down.
“We remain ready and committed to respond if requested at a later time,” Danville Fire officials said. “The community of Teutopolis and the emergency responders that have been working this incident are in our thoughts and prayers.”
Update at 6:40 p.m. – Firefighters and residents in Teutopolis are speaking out after the crash and evacuation of the town.
Fire Chief Tim McMahon said his firefighters realized immediately that they were dealing with serious chemicals and retreated. They subsequently went house to house to assist people in getting out.
One retired firefighter said he’s never seen anything like what happened and helped others as they tried to find safety.
State Representative Adam Niemerg lives in Teutopolis and expressed frustration with the traffic in town. He said construction on Interstate 70 is sending trucks like the tanker through town.
Meanwhile, McMahon also explained what anhydrous ammonia is and what can happen to someone who breaths it in.
Update at 2 p.m. – Officials from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency said the semi-truck was carrying approximately 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia when it crashed. Early estimates indicate that 4,000 gallons were spilled, which prompted the evacuation of approximately 500 people.
The leak has been partially patched, officials said.
A contractor hired by the tanker’s operator is en route to the scene to review the situation and determine the best way to safely empty the tanker. A contractor from the U.S. EPA is also en route.
Evacuation orders for the affected area remain in effect. The area begins near the four-way stop in Teutopolis at Main Street and continues east on U.S. Route 40 to the area of 2100th Street.
People are strongly advised to stay at least one mile north or south of U.S. Route 40, staying behind emergency units and barricades.
Update at 1 p.m. – Kim Rhodes, the Effingham County Coroner, has confirmed that five people, including two children, died as a result of Friday night’s ammonia leak in Teutopolis.
The children and one adult are confirmed to be from the same family, and they are from the area. The other two fatalities are from Missouri and Ohio.
The person from Ohio, authorities said, was a semi-truck driver who was passing through the scene.
Another five people were airlifted from the area for treatment at Central Illinois hospitals. One of those airlifted victims is the driver of the truck that was carrying ammonia; he was taken to Springfield Memorial Hospital.
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a 15-person team to Teutopolis, which includes Thomas Chapman. Chapman is one of five board members that make up the highest level of authority in the NTSB, members that require presidential nomination and U.S. Senate confirmation.
Meanwhile, the Teutopolis Civic Club has announced that its annual Oktoberfest celebration has been canceled as a result of the situation. The club said it is working on plans for a drive-thru food event for the community
Update at 11:55 a.m. – HAZMAT units from the Champaign Fire Department are en route to Teutopolis to assist in the ongoing situation there.
Randy Smith, a department spokesperson, said units were dispatched as part of a Mutual Aid Box Alarm System. Champaign personnel is expected to be on scene from 1 to 7 p.m.
Update at 11 a.m. – Illinois State Police said the evacuation orders in Teutopolis will remain in place for the remainder of Saturday and into Sunday morning.
Teutopolis’ Fire Chief also said the crashed tanker is still half full of ammonia and it remains at the crash site. Fire personnel are trying to figure out the best way to offload the tanker.
Update 10:30 a.m. – State Senator Steve McClure (R-Springfield), State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville), and State Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) have issued a statement in response to the crash and HAZMAT response:
We are keeping in touch with local first responders and law enforcement to monitor the situation. Our hearts are with the families of those who passed in this awful tragedy, and with the emergency personnel who have risked their own safety to help others. Please stay clear of the area and allow first responders to work. Our offices stand by to assist in any way that we can help.
Update: 8:30 a.m. – State Police provided updates about the Route 40 crash and cleanup in a press conference early Saturday morning.
Officials said crews are still responding to the crash scene and Route 40 is still shut down. People evacuated from the area stay clear until they are informed that they can return to their homes.
“We realize that these road closures by the evacuations, what a hardship that is to several of our citizens,” said Effingham County Sheriff Paul Kuhns. “But what I can ask is please, please cooperate with this as we mitigate this HAZMAT [situation].”
Kuhns also clarified that, while State Police reported five people had died in the crash, the exact number of fatalities is actually unknown. State Police later revised their reports to the media, saying only that “multiple fatalities” were confirmed.
Several agencies are at the crash scene, including the Illinois State Police, several local police departments and almost all of Effingham County’s local fire departments.
Bruce Wagner, an acting-Lieutenant in the Illinois State Police, added that the crash on Route 40 happened during a detour of traffic off Interstate 70. Three semi-trucks were involved in that crash and one caught fire, but only one of the drivers was hurt. They are expected to be ok.
Officials could not provide a timeline for when evacuated residents could be allowed back into their homes. They said things would return to normal once the ammonia is offloaded and taken away from the scene.
The cause of the HAZMAT crash is still under investigation.
Update: 5:55 a.m. – An additional press release emailed out clarified that at this time, five fatalities are reported at the scene. The scene is still active.
Update: 5:50 a.m. – Illinois State Police have released information about the crash involving several vehicles in the Teutopolis area Friday evening.
Illinois State Police report there are “multiple fatalities” due to this incident.
Multiple emergency departments remain on scene of the crash and the evacuation which happened east of Teutopolis. The public is still asked to avoid the area.
Around 4:50 p.m., a crash on I-70 eastbound just east of Effingham near the Montrose area caused traffic to be rerouted onto U.S. Highway 40.
At approximately 9:25 p.m., Illinois State Police responded to an additional wreck on Highway 40, about 1/2 mile east of Teutopolis, involving multiple vehicles, including a semi-truck leaking anhydrous ammonia. Due to the chemical plume, people within a one mile radius of the crash on U.S. Highway 40, including parts of Teutopolis have been evacuated.
US. Highway 40 remains closed between Teutopolis and Montrose.
Crews are working to contain the leak while first responders and emergency workers continue to respond to the incident.
Effingham County Coroner Kim Rhodes tells WCIA that several agencies are assisting her office, and the Illinois State Police will be the lead investigating agency in this incident.
Those looking for information on loved ones in the Teutopolis area should call Illinois State Police at 1-618-542-2171.
Update: 2:00 a.m. – Police on scene have provided a number for loved ones to contact Illinois State Police if they are looking for information from the Teutopolis area. That number is 1-618-542-2171.
Update: 1:20 a.m. on Sept. 30 – Effingham County Coroner Kim Rhodes spoke to WCIA and told us that one person has been confirmed dead as a result of the crash and ammonia leak in Effingham County. It is unknown where this fatality occurred as a result of the incident. An additional 5 people were flown out from the scene with unknown injuries.
Rhodes tells WCIA that until Hazmat clears the scene, they are unable to get any more information. The information remains at the “very preliminary stage at this point”, according to Rhodes.
Hazmat may not clear the scene for several more hours.
The evacuation notice remains in effect for the same areas in Teutopolis.
Photos below courtesy Tyler Repking, Repking Media at Teutopolis High School
Update: 10:45 p.m. – The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to our sister station WTWO that the incident involves a semi-truck carrying anhydrous that overturned. The crash happened less than one mile east of Teutopolis near the intersection of Route 40 and N 1950th Street.
Update: 10:08 p.m. – The evacuation order remains in place in Teutopolis, a shelter for those evacuees has been set up at the St. Anthony Grade School in Effingham.
UPDATE: 9:50 p.m. – The Effingham City/County 911 Office posted on Facebook stating the evacuation has been extended. All residents north of the CSX railroad tracks and east of Teutopolis High school are asked to evacuate to the west. Do not go east or south.
TEUTOPOLIS, Ill. (WCIA) – Residents in parts of Effingham County are being asked to evacuate due to a large ammonia leak in the area.
Residents in Teutopolis residing east of Pearl Street are asked to immediately evacuate to the west, according to the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office.
Route 40 is closed in Teutopolis due to the incident.
It is unknown at this time the cause of the chemical spill.
This is a developing story. We will share more as it becomes available.