Blast Rattles North MaineMay 21st, 2016 | By admin | Category: Natural Gas Leaks
Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2016 1:44 pm | Updated: 3:14 pm, Thu May 19, 2016.
By RICHARD MAYER Assistant Managing Editor
A thundering boom, glass flying everywhere, followed by thick smoke. Andrea Kamerman witnessed today’s explosion and structural collapse seconds after exiting her vehicle at the Heritage Village Condos in unincorporated Des Plaines.
Kamerman arrived at the condominium complex, east of I-294 and south of Central Road, to feed several feral cats in the area as she does on a regular basis. She stepped out of her vehicle at 9955 Linda Lane shortly after 9 a.m. and immediately experienced what fire investigators are probing as a gas explosion.
After the smoke cleared moments later, Kamerman said she witnessed parents clutching their babies while exiting the six-unit building through a gaping hole.
Firefighters from several area departments descended on the scene by 9:15 a.m. As they arrived, the smell of natural gas was extremely prevalent in the air.
North Maine Fire Protection District Fire Chief Rich Dobrowski said his department received a call around 9:15 a.m. reporting an explosion in the basement of the two-story condo building.
He said first arriving crews noticed two exterior walls blown out and significant damage to the rest of the structure.
“We did a quick interior primary search to make sure no one else was in the building, but we did not spend a lot of time in there,” Dobrowski said. “There was one minor injury, but she was not transported to the hospital.”
That one person was Daisy Roman. She told the Journal & Topics that she woke up to the explosion and no one else was with her at that time.
“I didn’t know what was happening, but all I knew was I felt the roof on my face,” she said. “It was very scary.”
She lived in one of the building’s basement units near where the explosion occurred. She suffered scratches on her face and said she would stay with family elsewhere for the time being.
Bruce Gordon, who has lived on the top floor of the building for the past seven years, said he smelled a gas odor around 9 a.m. He went to his kitchen, opened a window and then seconds later heard a large boom.
He said he immediately exited the building leaving behind two cats that he was very concerned about. He did not suffer any injuries and said the only damage to his unit was to the backdoor and a light fixture.
Jessica Souvongkham, who lived in the building next door, rushed to the scene. The eight-year resident said she received a call from her 19-year-old son who was home. He told her he heard a large explosion. She said her entire family was fine and she was just worried about those still in the building.
Dobrowski said everyone was pulled out and technical rescue teams were called in to analyze the building and its condition and safety.
“Building engineers are looking at it and we have to shore it up and secure it and then we can send fire personnel back in,” Dobrowski said.
Dobrowksi said the cause of the explosion was still being investigated and he was unsure if the odor of gas can be attributed to what occurred. He pointed out that flames never broke out. He said the Red Cross would provide aid to anyone who needed assistance.
Whether or not the building will be demolished will be determined at a later date.
David Simm, vice president of the homeowners association, said he arrived 15 minutes after the explosion occurred. He was shocked by what he saw when he arrived.
Simm said he began calling building owners and tried to reach out to tenants of each unit.
He, along with property manager Gayle Simon, said they were looking into relocating residents affected by the blast to another building in the complex with available units.
According to Simm, buildings in the complex are approximately 50-years-old.
“We are very thankful the explosion happened the way it did and no one was seriously injured,” Dobrowski said.
Fire crews from North Maine, Des Plaines, Park Ridge, Niles, Glenview and Morton Grove originally responded. A short time later, other departments arrived on scene including Northbrook, Deerfield, Wheeling, Mount Prospect, Northfield and Rosemont to provide assistance.