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I-10 closed in south Tucson after a nitric acid spill

Shelter-in-place order was rescinded Wednesday afternoon near Tucson
Posted at 4:34 PM, Feb 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-16 20:53:52-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A crash in south Tucson promoted evacuations and shelter-in-place orders for hours after a nitric acid spill Tuesday evening, according to the Pima Country Department of Environmental Quality.

Watch DPS provide an update on the crash in the player below.

Officials give update on Tucson chemical spill

Authorities say a truck tractor pulling a box trailer flipped onto its side in the median. According to Arizona Department of Public Safety officials, the driver died from their injuries.

The driver has since been identified as 54-year-old Rickey Immel of Nevada. Officials believe he may have had a medical emergency or was possibly tired behind the wheel, but that is still under investigation.

The affected area is near Kolb Road along Interstate 10.

A shelter-in-place order was lifted around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, but it was reinstated early Wednesday morning. The order was once again rescinded Wednesday around 5:40 p.m.

First responders evacuated people near the crash "out of an abundance of caution," according to DPS.

Residents in the area were advised to turn off heaters, air conditioning units, and other equipment that may bring outside air in.

That included individuals:

  • East of the crash to Houghton Road
  • West of the crash to Kolb Road
  • North of the crash to Valencia Road
  • South of the crash to Voyager Road

UA Tech Park was among the area evacuated, and sources say Vail Unified School District was canceling all after-school programs Tuesday, according to KGUN in Tucson.

Dr. Mazda Sherazi, the Medical Director for the Arizona Poison & Drug Information Center at the University of Arizona, spoke at a press conference about the crash Thursday.

He explained the red plume drivers and those near the crash saw forms when nitric acid touches metal.

The acid was wrapped in plastic totes and packed to code inside metal cages.

When the truck flipped, the acid came in contact with metal, creating that plume.

Dr. Sherazi is now hammering down the message that unless you were directly under the plume, you should be okay.

"If you have contact with the plume at high concentration, so pretty much standing feet…tens of feet of the plume for tens of minutes, there is a possibility you would develop pulmonary edema, respiratory disease. Delayed, meaning 12-24 hours later,” he said.

Emergency alert

Tucson Fire, Pima County Office of Emergency Management, Arizona DPS, and the Department of Public Safety's Hazardous Materials Response Unit are working on the response.

I-10 westbound has reopened at Houghton Road and I-10 eastbound has reopened at Kolb Road. The only remaining closure for this incident is I-10 eastbound at Craycroft Road.