Two killed after chemical tanker crashes on M6

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The Independent Online

Two people died when a chemical tanker carrying acid crashed on the M6 motorway yesterday.

Two people died when a chemical tanker carrying acid crashed on the M6 motorway yesterday.

Hundreds of litres of highly corrosive phosphoric acid were spilled across the southbound carriageway near Cannock, Staffordshire, when the tanker smashed into another lorry and a car at 12.28pm.

Paramedics had to don protection suits before approaching the scene because of the risk of severe burns and blindness from the spilt chemical.

West Midlands Police said two people in the car had died and one of the lorry drivers was in a serious condition in hospital. The second lorry driver was not believed to have been seriously injured. None of the victims had been named last night.

The crash, near junction 11, left the M6 blocked in both directions on one of its busiest stretches during the evening rush hour. Tailbacks of up to 30 miles in both directions were reported.

Six fire crews with about 50 firefighters, special chemical units and paramedics attended the scene.

A spokesman for Staffordshire Ambulance Service said one man, in his thirties, was thrown from a vehicle in the collision and had to be airlifted, with another injured motorist, to Birmingham's Selly Oak Hospital with multiple injuries.

A spokesman for the Central Motorways Policing Group, part of West Midlands Police, said: "It was a collision between three vehicles, one of which is a chemical tanker. We are treating it as a serious incident."

The tanker was believed to be travelling from Widnes on Merseyside.

Paul McCAffrey, spokesman for Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said firefighters using cutting gear, on the vehicles to free the victims while others were working to contain and mop up the spillage. The northbound carriageway was also closed to allow an air ambulance to land.

Staffordshire Fire Service confirmed that 1,800 litres of phosphoric acid had been spilt.

The substance was deemed to be extremely hazardous and paramedics were sent in wearing personal protection suits.

The southbound carriageway was closed between junction 11 and Hilton Park Services, and the northbound carriageway was closed between junction 10a, the M54 link, and junction 11.

Phosphoric acid is mainly used in the production of agricultural fertilisers but is also used for detergent additives, cleaners, insecticide production and cattle feed additives.

It can be added to foods as a preservative, acidifying agent, flavour enhancer and clarifying agent. It can also be used in processes such as the coagulation of rubber latex and soil stabilisation. It exists as a clear syrupy liquid or in crystal form and is odourless.

If it comes into contact with the skin, concentrated solutions of phosphoric acid can cause corrosive tissue injury or severe burns, while diluted solutions can cause mild to moderate irritation. If it gets in the eyes, it can cause blindness.

¿ Twenty-three pensioners were taken to hospital after their coach collided head-on with a van on a rural road near Kineton, Gloucestershire, at 11am yesterday. A spokesman for Gloucestershire Ambulance Service NHS Trust said no one was seriously injured.