5 injured by Beach Park ammonia leak sue farm, tractor driver
Five people injured by an ammonia leak in Beach Park last month are suing the driver transporting the hazardous chemical and the farm that employed him, attorneys said Wednesday.
Chicago-based law firm Romanucci and Blandin said it filed the lawsuit against John Kevek Farms Inc. in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, and Warren Reck, the driver of the tractor, for negligence, negligent training, willful and wanton conduct, ultrahazardous activity and public nuisance.
According to authorities, 37 people were hospitalized after two large containers of liquid anhydrous ammonia leaked while being hauled on Green Bay Road near 29th Street in Beach Park about 4:30 a.m. April 25.
Among the injured were 11 firefighters and three police officers who responded to the scene, authorities said.
"As a result of this toxic spill, each of our five plaintiffs, including first responders, were exposed to dangerously high levels of anhydrous ammonia and immediately began to feel the effects," attorney Antonio M. Romanucci said in an announcement of the lawsuit. "While they have all been treated, several are still suffering and in need of regular medical attention -- especially as the long-term effects of the exposure are still in question."
John Kevek Farms Inc. did not immediately respond Wednesday afternoon to a phone call, and Reck could not be reached.
Lake County sheriff's Sgt. Christopher Covelli said Wednesday the last of the patients had been discharged from the hospital May 5. No charges have been filed, but an investigation by the sheriff's office and National Transportation Safety Board is ongoing, Covelli said.
Farmers use anhydrous ammonia to fertilize soil. It quickly turns from liquid to gas when not under pressure. Exposure can cause breathing difficulties, burns and blisters, and the chemical can be fatal if inhaled.