Chicago, IL Poison Gas Escape, Feb 1978


Chicago (AP) -- Toxic gas killed seven persons and injured 28 others today in a block-long leather tannery, authorities reported.
Deputy Fire Marshal CHARLES PIERCE said, "When we arrived inside it was an eerie scene. People were lying on leather belts. One man had a severe cut over his eye. They were all unconscious."
Fire officials said the toxic gas was hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous combustible substance that smells like rotten eggs.
PIERCE said the accident occurred as workers attempted to pump a chemical from a tank truck into a holding vat. He said the chemical from the tank combined with a liquid already in the vat, producing the hydrogen sulfide.
Authorities said there apparently was a small explosion, but most or all of the deaths and injuries came from inhaling the gas.
A spokesman at St. Elizabeth's Hospital said five victims were dead on arrival and appeared to have died by inhaling toxic gas. The six other victims at the hospital were suffering from gas inhalation and some were in serious condition.
Other hospitals reported two dead and said that in addition to being overcome by gas some victims had been injured in the explosion.
PIERCE said the toxic fumes escaped as a truck of the Chemical Leamen Tank Lines Inc., of Wyoming started pumping 27,600 pounds of a chemical containing sulfur into a tank containing an acid.
He said the mix created hydrogen sulfide gas which immediately killed one man closest to the tank.

Daily Sitka Sentinel Alaska 1978-02-13