Man dies days after Chicago building explosion, collapse; cause still undetermined

Letter carrier Shabron Robinson identified as Chicago building explosion victim

ByLiz Nagy and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team via WLS logo
Friday, September 23, 2022 11:06PM
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Shabron Robinson was known just as he appeared in pictures shared by his friend and colleague: friendly with a flare for fashion.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The person most seriously injured in a Chicago building explosion and collapse earlier this week has died, Chicago fire officials said Friday.

He had been taken to Loyola Medical Center with extensive burns before succumbing to his injuries days later, according to CFD.

Shabron Robinson was known just as he appeared in pictures shared by his friend and colleague: friendly with a flare for fashion.

"Very nice gentleman, snazzy dresser, always had a kind word to say," neighbor Alvan Young recalled.

Fire officials say more than 90% of Robinson's body was badly burned when something exploded inside his third floor apartment Tuesday morning.

"When you looked down the hallway, all you saw was massive debris," Young said. "Where his door would have been was piles and piles and piles of bricks. Had us majorly concerned."

Somehow, the building's owner said Robinson made it out of the smoking, crumbling apartment.

"I think one of the surprising things is, they said in that condition, he was able to run out of the building and he was found in front of the building by the fire department, where they put him on a gurney and took him to the hospital," said Roman Viere, the building owner.

Fire officials said the explosion came from natural gas igniting, and the building's owner said it sparked inside Robinson's unit. The cause of that ignition remains undetermined.

"I have not been given any information by any of the authorities as to what they believe occurred just yet," Viere said.

He said Robinson had lived in the building for several years with no issues.

A longtime letter carrier on the city's West Side, the union said in a statement, "Shabron had a very spirited personality and was well liked by all who knew him. He will be greatly missed."

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The collapse and explosion Tuesday initially left eight people injured, including three seriously.

Surveillance video captured the explosion. A woman who had been standing idly on the sidewalk runs in terror, dodging bricks, cement and shards of glass spewing into the street.

Another angle of the blast shows a bright orange flash, a mere instant that shattered the homes and lives of dozens of families.

"It's surreal," Viere said. "Nothing could prepare you for a situation which we are dealing with today."

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"When I arrived on site and I saw the rubble all over the street and on top of that one car, it was just breathtaking," Viere said. "You automatically think of a war zone."

RELATED: Chicago building that exploded has history of inspection failures, alleged code violations

Fire officials said the blast happened around 9 a.m. on the top floor of the building, which is located at the intersection of West End and Central Avenue.

The blast could be felt blocks away. Debris from the explosion impaled a building across the street.

"I've never seen anything like this before," said James Fenton, who lives next door to the building that exploded.

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"When the building shook, I said, 'what in the hell was shaking the building like that?'" he said.

The ABC7 I-Team found online records, highlighting a history of inspection failures and alleged code violations at the building, but Viere says, "Nothing that came up in any of those inspections would have had anything to do with what happened yesterday."

He could not comment on if the building will be demolished.

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