Freeway reopens after hazmat crash left semi-truck driver dead near Tucson

A shelter-in-place and some evacuations have been called following a crash and hazmat spill on...
A shelter-in-place and some evacuations have been called following a crash and hazmat spill on Interstate 10 between Kolb and Rita roads Tuesday, Feb. 14.
Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 6:43 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2023 at 1:30 PM MST
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TUCSON (KOLD/3TV/CBS 5) -- A shelter-in-place order has been lifted, and Interstate 10 is back open nearly a day after a crash caused nitric acid to spill on the freeway south of Tucson Tuesday afternoon. Officials lifted the order just before 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, which covered an area within one mile of the crash scene. Hazmat crews report no nitric acid was found in the air within 100 yards of the site. Both directions of I-10 reopened just before 7 p.m.

[LINK: What to do if you were exposed]

Arizona DPS Troopers say the semi-truck rolled over, causing the trailer shell to crack open, sending plumes of the volatile chemical into the air. Emergency teams say a semi-truck driver died and Interstate 10 was immediately closed in both directions near the crash. The weather temporarily impeded hazardous material recovery and mitigation efforts overnight. But officials said Wednesday morning that the material had been removed from the truck, and crews were using dirt to keep more nitric acid from being released.

Vail School District announced that all its schools would be closed after the shelter-in-place order was extended on Wednesday morning. The district had already canceled all school activities and buses Tuesday afternoon.

A shelter-in-place and some evacuations have been called for a one-mile area of Tucson following a crash and hazmat spill on Interstate 10 between Kolb and Rita

According to the National Library of Medicine, nitric acid is a highly corrosive chemical that can be very toxic if inhaled. “Prolonged exposure to low concentrations or short-term exposure to high concentrations may result in adverse health effects,” the NLM said on its webpage. The main uses of the chemical are the production of fertilizers and explosives. According to the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality, hazmat crews tested air quality 100 yards in the direction of the wind and found no nitric acid.

The Pima County Health Department says those who drove through the plume before the highway closure “are likely OK,” since the exposure would have been less than 15 minutes. However, anyone with symptoms should contact their doctor or seek medical care. Tap/click here for more information. The chart below covers guidance for possible exposure:

The shelter-in-place is still in place for those within one mile around the crash, and officials are asking people to turn off anything that brings outdoor air.

This hazardous crash comes as Ohio residents continue to raise concerns about the release of toxic chemicals on board a freight train that derailed on Feb. 3 and left 50 cars in a fiery, mangled mess. There were no injuries but officials later ordered the evacuation of the immediate area. Residents are worried about the potential health impacts from the wreckage.