BEACH PARK, Ill.— Five people injured during a toxic chemical spill in north suburban Beach Park last month filed a lawsuit Thursday against the driver of the tanker and the farm that hired him.
A total of 37 people went to the hospital after anhydrous ammonia — a powerful fertilizer — leaked from a 2-ton tanker near 29th Street and Green Bay Road on April 25.
The tank had come from John Kevek Farms in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin where there are several similar chemical tanks.
Vera Reed unknowingly drove through the cloud of gas that morning.
“It was that bad and I couldn’t get away from it,” she said. “I was gasping for air and I just couldn’t breathe . That’s all I could remember.”
Reed said she had no idea what was happening.
“I found out later it was this chemical. It was a chemical spill,” she said.
The cause of the spill remains under investigation, but the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association said it appears the hose on the tanker was connected in this case, which can be dangerous, and under Illinois state law, is not allowed while transporting anhydrous ammonia on public roads.
David Neiman is an attorney representing Reed and four others injured in the spill. They’ve filed a lawsuit against John Kevek Farms and Warren Reck, the driver of the truck and allege negligence among other things.
“Had this driver been properly trained, if he knew how to appropriately handle the equipment, this chemical spill would have never happened,” Neiman said. “This incident was completely preventable. It didn’t have to happen. These injuries never had to occur.”
The chemical can be fatal and even small exposure can result in burns and breathing problems. More than a month after the spill, Reed is still experiencing problems with her voice.
Two of the five people bringing the lawsuit are emergency responders who were injured while inhaling fumes at the scene.
John Kevek Farms Inc. did not return WGN-TV’s calls for comment today. WGNTV was not able to reach the truck driver who was named in the suit.