Explosion at Illinois silicone plant kills 1 and leaves 2 missing

An explosion at a silicone plant in Waukegan, Illinois, leaves four people injured and others unaccounted for, according to authorities.

Posted: May 4, 2019 12:40 PM
Updated: May 4, 2019 12:40 PM

An explosion rocked parts of an Illinois town Friday night, killing one person, injuring four others and leaving two missing, authorities said.

The blast happened at AB Specialty Silicones in Waukegan, about 40 miles north of Chicago, police said. The company describes itself as a manufacturer of specialty silicone chemicals.

The "catastrophic explosion" hit around 9:30 p.m. local time, said Cmdr. Joe Florip, a Waukegan police spokesman.

One person was found dead Saturday morning, Waukegan Fire Marshal Steven Lenzi said. He referred further questions to the coroner's office.

The search for the other two missing people has been suspended due to dangerous conditions and concerns about structural stability, Lenzi said.

The building's owner and emergency officials will bring in some "heavy-duty equipment" to remove debris.

The fire has been extinguished, and hazardous materials technicians and other teams are on the scene and searching, Lenzi said. No cause has been determined, and the state fire marshal will assist with an investigation, he said.

Florip said the plant was open at the time of the explosion.

Lenzi said everyone affected was an employee working at the time. Four were taken to area hospitals with moderate to serious injuries, officials said. Two others were seen but requested no treatment.

Estimated damage to top $1 million

Florip said he would "categorize this as a massive explosion."

"Many neighboring properties are going to have damage," he said.

Damage is estimated at more than $1 million, Lenzi said. The blast affected at least five other nearby buildings.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office said on Twitter it was aware of "a very loud explosion sound" and "ground shaking."

Authorities later said they had no concern about air quality or a need to shelter in place.

Lenzi recalled one "fire instance" there over the last 10 years. The plant has been "very responsive" and was "safety cautious after the incident from the previous fire," he said. "We have had no instances as far as code violations or anything like that with the plant."

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