Pilsen gas explosion leaves at least 2 people injured

February 22, 2014 (CHICAGO)

It happened just after 5 Saturday morning in the 1300 block of West Cullerton.

Two women in their 20s were taken to Stroger Hospital Saturday morning after the explosion, one with burns to 70 percent of her body. They were sleeping in the back room of the house when it appears a fire in that room sparked a natural gas explosion.

Adriana Hernandez and her daughter Claudia Torres were sleeping in the front room of this house when they were startled awake by an explosion.

"And when I smelled the smoke, in my mind I wanted to get my daughter my niece and her girlfriend out of the building. But I couldn't find my niece," Hernandez said.

That young woman in her 20s had fallen through the floor onto the ground level and tried to crawl to safety where neighbors had gathered to see what happened.

"We heard the firemen and the explosion," said Maria Romero. "We got out of the house and my son took a video. He taped all the destruction and all the people that were living there were crying."

Though the home will not be habitable for a while, Hernandez and her sister Angelica were able to recover a few photos, but most importantly, the urn containing their mother's ashes. The urn's exterior was damaged, but its contents, thankfully, undisturbed.

"The restoration people said they might be able to go in if they got the go-ahead. We've been here since it happened just waiting for this," said Angelica Mar.

It took determination, patience, but the urn was found under a wall. Not quite intact, but its contents undisturbed.

The reunion was so special it brought joy to faces that had only just been overtaken by sorrow and loss.

"This is all we were waiting for. Everything else in the house. This is what we were waiting for," Hernandez said.

A spokesperson for the fire department says the explosion sparked a fire that spread from the kitchen of the home, leading investigators to begin their investigation into the cause by examining the kitchen gas lines, but as of now, no official cause has been determined.

Hernandez says she is always very careful to turn off her stove and didn't smell anything before she and her family went to sleep.

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