ROMEOVILLE – Twenty-four units were evacuated after a gas explosion that injured two utility workers Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, fire and safety inspectors began the process of letting people back into their homes while other residents were offered aid.
"The actions of the first responders and the way this community comes together to help are both overwhelming," Romeoville Mayor John Noak said.
The explosion occurred about 7 p.m. in one of the Wespark townhomes near Wespark Boulevard and Strawflower Court.
"Nicor Gas crews were at the scene earlier in the day after receiving a report of damage to a 2-inch natural gas line by a third party," Nicor spokeswoman Jae Miller said.
Lockport Township Fire Chief Dave Skoryi said firefighters were called to stand by about 3:30 p.m. and left the scene about 5:30 p.m. after being cleared by Nicor workers.
The explosion occurred in a five-unit building. One resident was home at the time but was able to escape without injury.
One of the Nicor employees suffered minor injuries and was taken to Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet where he was treated and released.
The other man suffered critical injuries and was taken to Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital and later transferred to the trauma center at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Skoryi said.
Two units in the building were "leveled" by the blast and another suffered "significant structural damage," Skoryi said.
Lockport Township and Romeoville firefighters responded to the scene, with assistance from Plainfield and Oswego fire agencies. As the fire was extinguished, inspectors "were still getting gas readings" and decided to evacuate the four buildings adjacent to the one where the explosion occurred.
Romeoville police and emergency management personnel remained at the scene to keep people away until inspectors with several agencies and utility and insurance companies returned in the morning.
Patricia Kemp, communications manager for the American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois, said in a statement that 13 families, including two children, needed lodging provided by the Red Cross.
"More may be identified who need help with disaster relief. Mental health services teams are also assisting families with emotional support to help them cope with this traumatic event," Kemp stated. "Volunteers were also on the scene ... with a canteen truck to provide water and snacks to aid the first responders."
The state fire marshal, commerce commission and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had inspectors at the scene.
"That's just standard protocol for any significant explosion. Although the investigation is still ongoing there are no indications this was not accidental," Skoryi said Wednesday afternoon.
Skoryi said it will take days for inspectors to make their way through the debris, and the search was suspended Wednesday due to rain.
"One woman's unit was damaged and she couldn't be allowed back into it, but firefighters went in and were able to find both of her cats and return them to her," Skoryi said.
Noak said village building inspectors would go through each unit and work with the area homeowners association while the village's social worker was coordinating aid for those affected by the blast. The village has established an account for financial donations.
"Our priority is to get families as much assistance as possible, then return the rest of the neighborhood back to normal as quickly as possible," Noak said.
HOW TO HELP
The village of Romeoville is managing an account to provide financial assistance to those affected by the gas explosion.
To donate online, go to www.romeoville.org and log in with account number: "relief-001" and the last name "relief."
Checks can be sent to:
Romeoville Provides Relief
Village of Romeoville
1050 W. Romeo Road
Romeoville IL 60446
Gift cards and money are also being accepted at the village hall, 1050 W. Romeo Road, and the Romeoville Recreation Center, 900 W. Romeo Road.