House explosion kills 2 in suburban Chicago

September 7, 2008 8:07:18 AM PDT
An elderly couple was killed in a house explosion in southwest suburban Frankfort. Clyde and Luella Reils had been married 67 years.The explosion destroyed or damaged eight homes in the suburb located about 25 miles southwest of Chicago.

One look at the pile of debris that used to be a home makes it clear that no one could have survived the explosion. Debris scattered for three blocks away, and the blast could be heard for miles.

Those in the neighborhood when it happened just after 5:30 a.m. Saturday immediately knew something bad had happened.

"It was a loud explosion. I thought an aircraft crashed," neighbor Joe Bella said.

"I was looking at my clock, 5:34 a.m., boom, and it literally moved furniture in my house. It knocked me out of my bed," said Kevin Ziegler, also a neighbor.

]"I never heard nothing like it. I couldn't figure out what happened. It was like a bomb going off," neighbor Pete Meneghetti said.

The explosion apparently originated inside the home on Sycamore. Investigators believe a build-up of gas suddenly ignited, but they are working with the Nicor gas company to determine where the gas came from.

The explosion destroyed the house next door and severely damaged at least six other homes in the neighborhood.

No one in those homes was injured, but 89-year-old Clyde and his 87-year-old wife, Luella Reils, were killed. Relatives say the couple was married 67 years. The longtime residents moved from across the street into the ranch style home earlier this year.

"I know they were down home people, that they were still very active. Just a great couple," said Frankfort police Chief Rob Piscia.

"These are long-time residents with many relatives here, and it is very upsetting to our community. Our sympathy goes out to the family," said Jim Holland, mayor of Frankfort.

The couple leaves behind four children and 15 grandchildren.

Shortly after the explosion, police evacuated the area. Nicor shut off gas to the neighborhood, and crews went door-to-door checking gas levels in homes. However, they have to wait until all the debris is removed to be able to investigate the main gas line in the basement of the Reils home. Saturday night, authorities were trying to reassure the community.

"It is an isolated situation; [the] community is safe," said Nicor spokesperson Bernard Anderson.

Frankfort fire and police investigators are getting some help from state investigators in the case.


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