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Fiery semi crash on I-90 east of Cle Elum kills 1, spews toxic fumes

KOMO/Air 4 photo

CLE ELUM, Wash. - One person was killed and a surrounding area was evacuated when a fiery crash of a tanker truck along I-90 near Cle Elum unleashed a dangerous toxic chemical leak, the Washington State Patrol reports.

Residents up to a mile away from the crash scene were warned to close their windows and turn off the air-conditioning for protection from the fumes.

State troopers and firefighters rushed to the scene, in the westbound lanes of the freeway about a mile east of Cle Elum, at about 7:50 a.m. after receiving reports of a serious crash. A wrecked tanker truck was found upside down in flames and spewing a column of smoke.

Four tanks full of toxic anhydrous ammonia fell from the truck in the crash and the largest of them, containing 1,000 gallons, was ruptured and leaking, releasing about half the tank, the State Patrol reported. The gas is widely used on farms as nitrogen fertilizer.

A 22-mile stretch of I-90 was quickly shut down. The nearby Indian John rest area was evacuated on both sides of the freeway, along with some nearby homes.

The truck driver was killed in the crash. A preliminary investigation found that the driver was heading west on the freeway, lost control and ran into the median.

One trooper was treated and released from a local hospital for possible exposure to the chemical.

The eastbound lanes were able to reopen around 2:30 p.m., but westbound lanes were expected to remain closed until about 8 p.m., the State Patrol reported.

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