TIPTON – Indiana State Police say residents at around six houses near U.S. 31 were forced to evacuate Friday morning after a FedEx semi reared ended a tanker hauling hydrochloric acid, causing around 4,000 pounds of the chemical to spill onto the road.
Sgt. Tony Slocum said the driver of the tanker at around 5:30 a.m. was stopped at the railroad tracks, as required by law, near 100 South in the northbound lane of U.S. 31 when he was slammed from behind by the FedEx truck, which was hauling two trailers.
The FedEx driver was Stephen Emery, 29, Peru. The tanker driver was Justin Walker, 38, Louisville, Kentucky, according to a release.
Slocum said Emery was ejected from the cab, but both drivers only sustained minor injuries and declined medical treatment at the scene.
“When I pulled up to the scene, I thought it was a fatal for sure,” he said. “Miraculously, they both had very minor injuries.”
Around 4,000 pounds of hydrochloric acid spilled onto the roadway, which then formed into a toxic plume that could be seen a mile away. The acid is used in batteries, lightbulbs and fireworks. Hazmat crews were on scene after the crash.
Slocum said six residences were evacuated near the crash scene, but no one was in immediate danger and no injuries from the chemical were reported.
“Due to the way the wind was blowing, no one was really in danger,” he said. “They evacuated the residences out of an abundance of caution.”
The Indiana Department of Transportation said the mixture of acid and diesel fuel that leaked onto the highway created a corrosive substance that ate away at the asphalt and damaged the road.
Slocum said INDOT crews must mill off the top of the road to fix the damage. He said they will keep one northbound lane open during the work.
Only one southbound lane of traffic was open Friday morning. All northbound traffic was diverted onto Ind. 28.
Slocum said Friday afternoon the northbound lanes remained closed indefinitely as crews cleaned up the debris. For hours after the crash, packages, boxes and other debris from the FedEx truck littered the road around the crash scene.
State police continue to investigate the incident, but at this time neither the use of alcohol or narcotics is suspected to have contributed to the crash.
Walker was driving for Reagent Chemical Research Incorporated, based in Port Author, Texas, and heading to Claypool. Emery was driving for FedEx out of Kokomo, where he was on his way to make a delivery.