Autopsies confirm 5 died of chemical exposure in tanker crash

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Autopsies have confirmed that five people who died when a chemical tanker overturned in central Illinois last month died from exposure to caustic anhydrous ammonia fumes, an official said Monday.

The official results confirmed preliminary findings from the Sept. 29 crash, Effingham County Coroner Kim Rhodes said. The victims, including two children, suffered severe chemical burns to their entire bodies, as well as their eyes and respiratory systems, she said.

The crash involving a tanker truck carrying the agricultural fertilizer occurred about 8:40 p.m. on U.S. 40 just east of Teutopolis, 110 miles (177 kilometers) northeast of St. Louis.

Killed in the crash were Danny J. Smith, 67, of New Haven, Missouri; Vasile Cricovan, 31, of Twinsburg, Ohio; 34-year-old Kenneth Bryan of Teutopolis and his children Walker, 10, and Rosie, 7, of Beecher City.

Traffic had been diverted onto U.S. 40 from Interstates 57 and 70, about five miles (eight kilometers) west of Teutopolis because of an interstate crash earlier that afternoon. Authorities believe the tanker accident occurred when a car tried to pass the truck, which jackknifed, overturned and landed on a trailer hitch near the road, which punched a hole in it.

Illinois State Police said earlier this month they identified the car involved but would not comment further.

Seven others near the crash site were hospitalized with severe burns, including three 18-year-olds and a 19-year-old who are members of a University of Missouri club swim team and were headed to Ohio State University for a swim meet. The others are a 66-year-old man, a 61-year-old woman and a man, 24.

Five have been discharged from hospitals, Rhodes said. Two — the 19-year-old swimmer from Olathe, Kansas, and the 61-year-old woman from Union, Missouri, remain hospitalized in critical condition.