The 5 Killed in Illinois Crash Died of Exposure to Ammonia

Father and his 2 young kids among the dead in Illinois tragedy
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2023 12:30 AM CDT
It Was Exposure to Ammonia That Killed 5 in Illinois Crash
FILE - Emergency responders set up a staging area near Teutopolis High School on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, in Teutopolis, Ill.   (Jeff Long/Effington Daily News via AP, File)

Preliminary autopsies on the five people who died after a semitruck overturned on an Illinois highway Friday night found that all five died from exposure to fumes after the tanker spilled anhydrous ammonia it was carrying. The chemical, used as a refrigerant or a nitrogen fertilizer, created a toxic plume that forced those within a 1-mile radius of the crash site to be evacuated. Anhydrous ammonia can burn or corrode organic tissue, and when breathed in at high concentrations can cause burning of the respiratory tract leading to respiratory failure, per the New York State Department of Health.

The victims were Kenneth Bryan, 34, and his children, Walker Bryan, 10 and Rosie Bryan, 7, of nearby Teutopolis; Danny J. Smith, 67, of New Haven, Missouri; and Vasile Cricovan, 31, of Twinsburg, Ohio, the AP reports. Five other people, ages 18 to 61, were airlifted to hospitals, also due to exposure, WTWO/WAWV reports. Their conditions have not been reported. Several others were also treated at hospitals, some of them after having traveled past the crash site. Authorities say a vehicle attempted to pass the semi and the truck reacted by veering to the right before it jackknifed, went off the road, and overturned, WPDE reports. The chemical container of the tanker received a 6-inch hole when it collided with the trailer hitch of a vehicle that was parked off the road, ultimately spilling half of the ammonia it was carrying.

A GoFundMe campaign is raising money for the Bryan family's funeral expenses as well as for the children's mother, and a GoFundMe for Cricovan is here. According to the campaign for Cricovan, as translated by the Independent, "A truck carrying anhydrous ammonium overturned in front of him, he braked and got out of his truck and inhaled toxic vapors, after which he had a respiratory failure." A GoFundMe for one of the hospitalized victims, meanwhile, says members of a college swim team "bailed and ran away as the chemical plume covered them," ending up with chemical burns to their lungs, eyes, and other body parts. (Read more Illinois stories.)

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