Trooper and witness risked life to help anhydrous driver

By Audrey Wise

December 5, 2013 Updated Dec 5, 2013 at 8:59 PM CDT

EDLESTEIN, Ill -- One person is hospitalized with possible life threatening injuries after a tank of anhydrous ammonia exploded Thursday morning.

It happened in northern Peoria county near the intersection of Routes 40 and 90 in rural Edlestein.

Just before 8:00 a.m, a pick-up truck driver was hauling two anhydrous ammonia tanks when he lost control.

One tank flipped over and exploded. Most of the tank landed in a field approximately one-hundred yards away.

The other tank turned over and started to leak, but did not explode.

An Illinois State Trooper and a nearby resident were chatting in an abandoned parking lot near the intersection when the incident happened.

State Trooper Dustin Pierce said, "The Trooper saw the tanks start to wobble for some unknown reason."

You could say right place, right time. The two very capable people became witness to such a dangerous situation and were able to help.

"They saw the driver of the truck climbing out of the fog of anhydrous," said Trooper Pierce.

The neighbor, Scott Eberle, said he knows the dangers of the chemical. Anhydrous ammonia can cause chemical burns to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.

"Even exposure to a small amount of it can pose some very serious injuries very quickly," said Trooper Pierce.

Eberle and the Trooper ran to the driver, while risking their lives due to exposure. Eberle said he held his breath the whole time.

Trooper Pierce said, "He was able to get to an area that was safe enough to be able to pull the driver out. The driver was still in pretty bad shape."

The driver was taken to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center with life-threatening injuries. An update on his condition has not been made available.

Eberle refused treatment and went on to work.

The Trooper was treated for his exposure at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and has been released.

The anhydrous ammonia tanks are owned by Akron Services, Inc. They are not releasing a statement at this time.

The crash remains under investigation.