Ammonia spilled on a farm tractor Thursday afternoon in Beach Park sent at least 37 people to hospitals, including seven reportedly in critical condition by noon.
The outbreak began around 4:30 am in the area of Green Bay Road and 29th Street, according to Sgt. Christopher Covelli, a spokesman for the Lake County Sheriff.
Investigators believe that a tractor towed two 2-ton tanks of anhydrous ammonia when they began to leak, and Covelli said the investigators do not believe the vehicle was involved in a vehicle traffic collision.
"Basically, the substance blew up," said Covelli. "This released the cloud into the air, which is extremely dangerous."
This substance can cause "unconsciousness and, in the worst case, even death," Covelli said.
According to Covelli, among the injured were emergency workers who responded to the crime scene.
"MPs arrived at the scene ̵
"These MPs had to retreat and get out of the area, and they were then taken to a local hospital, treated and released."
Covelli added that a total of 37 people were taken to hospitals because of these toxic fumes Of these 37, there are seven who are in critical condition and (what) are considered life threatening injuries. "
Pamela Burnett, 57, said she went to a job at a grocery store in Kenosha she went through the cloud of poisonous gas.
Burnett, an unincorporated Warren Township resident, said she was in Green Bay Road when she saw the car in front of her brake and started to slow down. She added that she could see a cloud, but she was not sure if it was smoke or dust from someone peeling off at the edge of the road.
"It got bigger and bigger – it did not go away. I tried to slow down and do not go through it, "she said, but it was too late.
" It was not smoke. I thought it was a kind of chemical, "Burnett a dded." The next thing I knew, I could not breathe, it was such a strong smell, I thought, Lord, that's it, I'm done now.
Speaking to a group of media gathered near the scene, Burnett said she broke the road while "spitting and coughing" and called 911. She added that she was A man lying on the street saw road nearby.
Burnett was transported to the Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, and she said that a policeman would also be treated.
According to officials at the scene, preliminary information shows that anhydrous ammonia was used as a tractor was traveling on Green Bay Road in the area of the 29th Street The victims were taken to the Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, the Vista East Medical Center in Waukegan St. Catherine Hospital in Kenosha , Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital and Naval Station Great Lakes Hospital.
Covelli said a total of 11 firefighters and three policemen were being transported for treatment, including a firefighter / EMT from the Newport Township Fire Protection District, which was in critical condition.
According to Covelli, most victims were determined to have "non-life threatening" conditions, and several dozen others were evaluated by paramedics but not transported.
Mike Galllo, a department manager at the Lake Forest Fire Department, said it appears that a value has failed to connect to the two containers pulled by the tractor.
Gallo added that farmers often use the chemical to aerate the soil, starting at 9 I have emptied the ammonia from both tanks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that anhydrous ammonia is a colorless gas that can cause respiratory distress, burns and flatulence. When many people are inhaled in high concentrations, this is fatal.
Several schools were closed and a one-kilometer radius was set up, asking residents to protect themselves by closing windows and turning off their heating or air conditioning. At about 10 o'clock in the morning the call was picked up at the property on the spot.
Terence Jackson of Kenosha, who manages a 7-Eleven on the corner of York House and Green Bay streets, said he approached 21st Street in Zion when he arrived, indicating that something was wrong. when ambulances, police cars, and fire engines drove past 5:30
"I've seen lights everywhere, and I thought it was an accident," Jackson said, adding that he had taken an alternative route to work, but At 6:30 he got a headache, sore throat and got a little sick.
"I did not feel that way when I left home," Jackson said. "Maybe I'll be checked, but I do not know."
At 9:30 am, the first responders of the regional departments still went door-to-door in a subdivision that was located just one kilometer from the scene of the accident. They asked if people had opened their windows early in the morning and if they were alright.
"I had my windows open the night before, but not last night, thank goodness," said Annalisa Iskalis, who lives in the subdivision near the Green Bay Road in Beach Park, just over a mile away from where the overflow had taken place.
Iskalis added that she heard police on the street with a megaphone at 5am but could not understand what they were saying. She was still awakening. She received a robocall shortly afterwards and learned what had happened.
Her 10-year-old daughter attends St. Patrick's School in Wadsworth, which was not closed, but Iskalis decided to keep her home anyway. She said.
"I just felt better when we all stay home because I did not want to go through anything dangerous," said Iskalis. "It was a scary start to the day."
Robert Turner said he had heard news from the tide from his sister near Beach Park who was watching a report on television and calling to make sure he was safe.  Turner drives a school bus to Lake Forest Elementary School District 67 and immediately calls his boss to say he's working two blocks from home because of the chemical stress.
"I'm 65 years old," Turner said. "At this age, you do not recover as much as you did at a younger age, so I take no risks with my health."
Turner said it was not until the police walked to his door after 9:30 am being able to relieve his 13-year-old Doberman in order to relieve himself.
"It was stressful for him, but it had to happen that way," Turner said. Patricia Bidzinski of Beach Park She said she was frightened by an Illinois State Police soldier who called her patrol car just before 5:30 am as she walked near her house with her puppy.
"He said: 'You must go in. There's a danger around here, "Bidzinski said.
Shortly thereafter, Bidzinski looked out of her windows and saw some of her neighbors go and said she had to, but in the end she decided to stay simple, she said
"I saw geese and birds in the pond behind my terraced house and they looked good," Bidzinski said. "I told my friend we should stay fine, but I will not lie – it was scary."  Gallo said the officers responded to a five-alarm emergency call to bring ambulances, and Cook District authorities were asked to send more ambulances.
There were 20 different departments responding to the call According to Gallo, there were 140. Firefighters in full hazardous materials equipment were on site after the staff had sprayed water on the containers to reduce the escape of gas.
"It was very difficult to contain the gas ", Gallo said. At eleven o'clock in the morning, there was still a quarter-mile radius around, and Gallo added that anyone in the region who had inhalation problems should call 911 to occasionally cough. She was actually worried about the other people after she was told that some people were in critical condition.
"I just hope the others are fine," she said.
Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Frank Abderholden is a reporter for Lake County News-Sun. The freelance reporter Yadira Sanchez-Olson contributed to this.
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