House explodes in northwest suburbs

January 13, 2010 8:52:50 PM PST
It appears a gas leak triggered an explosion at an Elgin home where seven people were injured.The seven injured reportedly include six adults and an 8-year-old boy. Four of the injuries were minor. Those people have been treated and released, but there are still three people that remained hospitalized Wednesday in serious but stable condition. The injured include five people in the home, the neighbor who came to their aid and a Nicor employee.

Officials from the fire department and Nicor Gas are working out the source of the leak that they say triggered the explosion that brought down 708 Elma Avenue just before 9 p.m. Tuesday night. Nicor investigators had been on the scene as early as 5:30 p.m., responding to a gas leak call from next door and they were there when 708 Elma blew up.

Nicholas Montiel ponders what he says was the folly of last night. The 25-year-old truck driver said he was watching TV in his living room when an enormous explosion knocked him off his couch. Within moments he says he ran across the street and helped members of the Montes family escape from the rubble before the flames got too big.

"He was coming with the little girl?I don't know how he did it, how he went inside," said Argela Montiel.

Montiel says her husband was upset that Nicor officials refused to help him with the rescue.

"When he went in there, the Nicor people were standing there. And they saw the explosion. So he actually asked them for help to go in the house and try to get the people. And they just backed up," said Montiel.

Nicor spokesperson Richar Caragol said staff were investigating report of the gas leak at 710 Elma when 708 Elma blew. They did not turn off gas to the block or broader neighborhood for fear of inconveniencing people and businesses. The company maintains it acted "prudently and appropriately" because the source of the leak could have been minor.

"How come they didn't shut off the gas before all this and move the people out of the house? And now everybody around this house is out of the house. And why? Why did they wait until this happen?" said Estella Morales.

Morales says her sister's family had their house paid off in 12 years and now they're counting their blessings.

"We can't explain how lucky they are. But the good thing, that they're alive. That's all we can say, they're alive. And we are very happy with that. And life, we can't buy life with money and they're here," said Morales.

Five members of Morales' family were injured in the explosion. She says that her brother-in-law has serious burns to his arm and to his face.

A Nicor employee was also injured but was taken to an area hospital and released.

The city of Elgin says that all the families that were evacuated from their homes as a result of the explosion have been allowed to go back to their homes except for the family at 710 Elma, the source of the first report of a gas leak. They have not been allowed to get back into their home because the gas readings in their homes still are too high.

Estella Morales says the family has set up a donation fund for the family at National City Bank, Montes family fund, acct #2696829415.