Truck with hazardous material crashes on I-90 near Cle Elum, killing driver, releasing ammonia fumes

CLE ELUM, Wash. (AP) — A tractor-trailer carrying hazardous material crashed on Interstate 90 near Cle Elum, killing the driver and sending fumes into the air.

The driver was later identified as Rory D. Hillman, 32, of Othello.

The Washington State Patrol said Hillman's truck was traveling westbound on I-90 about 3 miles east of Cle Elum when it left the roadway to the left, overcorrected and lost the ammonia-filled tanks it was carrying. Hillman's truck rolled onto its top and coming to rest in the left ditch. Another semi, also traveling westbound, struck the ammonia tanks, the State Patrol said.

The driver of the second truck wasn't injured, the State Patrol said.

Hillman's semi was transporting tanks containing 7,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, a gas widely used on farms as nitrogen fertilizer, the EPA said. The largest of the tanks of anhydrous ammonia was breached and began leaking about 500 pounds of ammonia, requiring a full closure of both the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-90.

Both “Indian John Hill” rest areas, as well as several area residences, were also temporarily evacuated, the EPA said.  Once the fire was extinguished, the leak was located and initially sealed by EPA contractors. Later, a specialist arrived at the scene and re-sealed the tank for transport.

Eastbound lanes of I-90 between Cle Elum and Ellensburg reopened to traffic in the afternoon. Westbound lanes reopened shortly after 8 p.m.

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


One person was killed in the crash, WSDOT Trooper Brian Moore said.



Officials also encouraged those traveling over the pass to take other routes, as long backups were expected for some time.

This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available. For the latest on the crash, visit the Q13 News traffic page.