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Roadway opens after deadly ammonia leak in Falls County

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Posted at 1:39 PM, Nov 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 01:16:36-05

UPDATE

FALLS COUNTY, Texas — Falls County Sheriff Joe Lopez says roadways are back open after a semi-truck carrying anhydrous ammonia ruptured late last week.

Lopez said it is now safe for residents to return to their homes.

In addition, he said a small cleanup crew will remain at the crash site to remove the dangerous chemical.

The driver of the semi-truck has been identified as Noe Salas. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

His son, Michael Salas, said the family is looking for help with funeral expenses.

If you would like to help, you can donate to the family's GoFundMe page.

ORIGINAL STORY

A massive operation was underway in Falls County after a semi-truck carrying anhydrous ammonia ruptured on Friday.

Sheriff Joe Lopez told 25 News Det. Derick Johnson is recovering in a Hillcrest hospital after falling ill at the scene.

"He's doing good," Sheriff Lopez said. "He's just getting the final word on his treatment and see if he'll be released tonight."

Lopez said Johnson responded to the scene of the rupture unaware of the hidden danger inside the tank and inhaled fumes contaminated with ammonia vapor.

Sgt. Ryan Howard with Texas Department of Public Safety told 25 News the truck driver struck a tree branch, rupturing the hazardous cargo.

Waco Fire Department is working the hot zone right now to contain the deadly chemical, and a spokesperson for the department said efforts would go well into the overnight hours to remove the chemical.

Law enforcement have put up a one-mile barricade around the spill, allowing access to only first responders in full HAZMAT gear.

Officials have yet to confirm the identity of the person killed in the hazardous leak.

Lopez said the roadway would be closed to the public for at least the next eight hours.

Law enforcement said the semi-truck ruptured near FM 1240 and FM 147 in Falls County and the roadway has since opened back up.

What exactly is anhydrous ammonia?

It's the gas ammonia, in its liquid state. The national institute for occupational safety and health says anhydrous ammonia is a pungent and colorless gas or liquid. If exposed, the first step is to get away from the source of exposure and seek medical attention immediately.

Inhaling a small amount can lead to death or injury. Upon inhalation symptoms include wheezing and chest pains, and suffocation in poorly ventilated areas.

When concentrated anhydrous ammonia is corrosive to human tissue.

Eye exposure can result in simple irritation or, in severe cases, temporary or permanent vision loss.