WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (localmemphis.com) - It was a slow grind for drivers on westbound I-40 in Crittenden County, Arkansas, for most of the day Tuesday. A container carrying a solid sodium cyanide compound fell on the interstate just west of West Memphis, shutting down all I-40 lanes for hours.
It happened on mile marker 272 a little after 6:00 a.m. After a few hours, eastbound lanes reopened, but westbound remained backed up.
It was a hectic morning for crews dealing with a potentially hazardous and lethal chemical on the interstate. West Memphis fire fighters were covered from head to toe after several containers of sodium cyanide, in its safer, solid form, fell out of a tractor trailer. Learn more about the toxic chemical HERE.
As a precaution, all I-40 lanes were closed around mile marker 272 as firefighters made sure the material wasn’t dangerous to drivers and those living nearby. A private contractor did a final cleanup of the containers.
West Memphis Fire Division Chief DeWayne Rose said crews treated the scene with proper precautions, especially since sodium cyanide can transform into a poisonous gas. “No one in West Memphis was in any kind of jeopardy,” he said. “But just know the West Memphis Fire department is highly trained, and we are well prepared for an incident like this. And if there was any kind of danger for the community, we would have notified everyone involved.”
West Memphis fire leaders said this was the most significant shut down of I-40 lanes in Crittenden County in a year. The driver of that tractor trailer suffered minor injuries.
The Arkansas State Police are investigating the cause of the accident.