The accident caused a truck hauling ammonia to overturn. The truck, which lost control while crossing Whitley Ave. at Otis Ave., clipped the curb on the northeast corner of the intersection, taking out a light post and a tree and knocking down the street sign. It then overturned just north of Whitley.
Following the crash, ammonia began to spew from the tank. The main valve on the truck was successfully shut down, but a vent tube continued to release ammonia for some time after the incident, which occurred at approximately 11 a.m. According to the Kings County Fire Department, which took the lead on the spill and its clean-up, the vent is designed to stop releasing the toxic gas once it reaches a certain pressure stabilization point.
An evacuation warning went out at about 11:20 a.m. Local law enforcement and public works personnel worked to close streets and direct traffic around the scene. Corcoran Area Transit bus drivers and helpers evacuated the Corcoran Station apartment complex, delivering residents—many disabled and senior citizens—to the Veterans Hall. About 100 residents were evacuated from the two-block area surrounding the leak, which extended to Chittenden Ave. on the west, Hall Ave., on the south, Gardner Ave. on the east and Brokaw Ave. on the north.
All train traffic through the community was also halted.
At least two people were transported to Adventist Hospital in Hanford after breathing ammonia gas. Both were treated in the emergency room, which had been notified of the spill and was prepared to accept local patients, as needed. Both women were released after treatment. Ambulances were parked in front of the Veterans Hall most of the afternoon in case any of the evacuees there needed such transport.
According to news reports, the overturned truck has a capacity to hold about 4,000 gallons of ammonia and was loaded with about 3,200 gallons of the noxious gas.
The truck driver escaped without injury. Investigation is continuing into what caused the accident, but the police department does not believe alcohol or drugs were involved.
Crews had most of the area cleaned up by about 4:30 p.m., when the Kings County Office of Emergency Management notified residents and businesses that the hazardous material had been contained. The notice said residents were once again released to go outside if they lived in the evacuation zone. The railroad tracks were also cleared at that time, allowing freight trains to pass through the community.
As of Tuesday morning, however, the local depot remained closed. The city released a message noting that area transit buses were being dispatched from city hall and Amtrak train tickets were also available at city hall. The depot offices were closest, and in direct the direct path, of the ammonia fumes. The building was being cleaned and aired.