Two still hospitalized from ammonia leak in Beach Park
Two people remain hospitalized days after two large containers of liquid anhydrous ammonia leaked while being hauled on Green Bay Road near 29th Street in Beach Park, authorities said.
Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Christopher Covelli said the two civilians who remain hospitalized have been upgraded from critical to serious condition and have been moved out of the intensive care unit.
The remaining 21 civilians, 11 firefighters and three law enforcement officers who were injured after inhaling toxic fumes have been released from hospitals, he said.
No charges have been filed against the 59-year-old Wisconsin man who was driving a tractor hauling the chemical to a farm field at 4:30 a.m. Thursday in Beach Park, Covelli said. That driver and the tractor's owner are cooperating with investigators from the sheriff's office and the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause of the leak, Covelli said.
NTSB investigators have said that investigation could take up to a year, Covelli said.
The leak was discovered Thursday morning when authorities were called to the scene of a reported crash with a vehicle on fire and a person down in the roadway.
Two sheriff's officers determined the plume of smoke initially thought to be from a vehicle fire was actually anhydrous ammonia, often used by farmers to fertilize soil. The liquid turned to gas when it leaked out of the pressurized tanks.
Exposure to the chemical compound can cause breathing difficulties, burns and blisters, and it can be fatal in some situations, authorities said.
In the minutes after the leak was discovered, authorities ordered people living near the site to stay indoors, and area schools were closed for the day.
The NTSB inspected the ammonia tanks Friday morning. Parts of the tanks will be taken to Washington for further study.
In addition to investigating the leak, the agency will focus on the response to the emergency, officials said.