37 hospitalized from ammonia leak in Chicago suburb


CHICAGO (ABC News) – A chemical spill early Thursday morning, north of Chicago sent dozens to the hospital. Some residents were told to shelter in place. The schools there had closed for the day.

Plumes of toxic gas could be clearly seen billowing from the back of a tractor.

The tractor was towing 2 two-ton tanks of anhydrous ammonia, a hazardous chemical used in agricultural fertilizer when one of the containers leaked and spewed a cloud of the noxious chemical into the air. Officials say 37 people, including police and firefighters, were overcome by the fumes and had to be hospitalized. Some are in critical but stable condition.  

“The issue is the plume of gas now.  I mean the liquid leaks are solid, are a little easier to contain and dike off. This is harder, something that’s airborne,” Deputy Chief Mike Gallo of the Lake Forest Fire Department said. 

Authorities said the gas is extremely dangerous and can result in difficulty breathing or even death.

“I could hardly see because the smoke or the gas was just overtaking and it was like breathtaking,” said 911 caller  Veda Reed. “I just couldn’t catch my breath.”

Residents were told to shelter in place and close their windows. Schools in the area were forced to close.

“There’s only so much you can do with the plume,” Gallo said. “You just have to kind of wait for it to dissipate.”

Firefighters went door-to-door to make contact with those in the neighborhood. 

By late morning, that shelter-in-place order lifted. Officials are now investigating the cause of the incident.

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