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Lawmakers advance measure in response to a deadly 2023 anhydrous ammonia tanker accident

Illinois senators have passed legislation in response to a deadly accident involving a tanker carrying anhydrous ammonia last fall.

Five people were killed – including a father and his two young children – when they were exposed to the toxic chemical. A total of 11 were injured with some airlifted from the scene in Effingham County.

The truck was hauling nearly 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia along U.S. 40 near Teutopolis.

Officials said a vehicle tried to pass the tanker. The truck’s driver then drove off the road to prevent an accident with oncoming traffic. The tanker crashed into a utility trailer parked just off the road.

“As it rolled over, the tanker truck jackknifed and exposed the head end of the tank,” said Tom Chapman with the National Transportation Safety Board. “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.”

Roughly half the truck's load was spilled. The accident caused "a large plume of anhydrous ammonia on the roadway.

SB 3406 will require the Illinois Secretary of State to include education on hazardous material placards in the Rules of the Road publication, which is used to educate students in drivers education classes. The aim of the legislation is to educate drivers so that they know when hazardous materials are being transported on the roads with them.

“My hope is that drivers, especially younger drivers, will be educated on how deadly even minor crashes can be that involve vehicles hauling hazardous materials,” said Senator McClure (R-Springfield). “I’m hopeful that better educating drivers will help save lives.”

The legislation is awaiting action on the House floor.

Those who died in the incident were identified as:

Kenneth Bryan, 34, from Teutopolis, Ill.
Rosie Bryan, 7, from Beecher City, Ill.
Walker Bryan, 10, from Beecher City, Ill.
Danny J. Smith, 67, from New Haven, Mo.
Vasile Cricovan, 31, from Twinsburg, Ohio

The leak resulted in an evacuation of about 500 people within a one mile radius. Traffic, including the tanker, was pushed onto the highway, which bisects Teutopolis, because of an earlier crash on Interstate 70.

Anhydrous ammonia is used by farmers to add nitrogen fertilizer to the soil and as a refrigerant in the cooling systems of large buildings such as warehouses and factories. According to the American Chemical Society, it is carried around the United States by pipeline, trucks and trains.

Lawsuits filed by some of the victims and families are pending.

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