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

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Chicago building that exploded has history of inspection failures
A Chicago apartment building that exploded Tuesday, located at 5601 W. West End Ave., has a history of inspection failures, the I-Team has found.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An explosion ripped through an apartment building on Chicago's West Side Tuesday morning, leaving at least eight people injured.

When something like this happens, the I-Team starts an immediate check of inspection records, alleged code violations and citations, fines and whether repairs were ordered and carried out. The Austin apartment building located at 5601 W. West End Ave. had a history of failed inspections.

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Larry Merritt with the Chicago Fire Department says six people were hospitalized after a building collapse in South Austin.

The I-Team received clarification on some of this from officials at the Chicago Department of Buildings. Authorities say "none of the violations (in city records) would have contributed to an explosion or structural failure at the building."

We were also told there are no current or open enforcement cases, and that previous serious violations have been resolved. So, the forensic work goes on to determine why an explosion happened and part of a building came down.

Tuesday afternoon, Chicago police bomb unit investigators backed up by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives worked to determine why this mass casualty blast happened.

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Alderman Chris Taliaferro reacts to a building collapse in the South Austin neighborhood.

Although fire department inspectors now consider the building not sound for residents to remain, city inspection records don't suggest broad structural failures or risks that could have prevented a partial collapse.

I-Team sources say investigators suspect a gas explosion as the most likely culprit. But without determining the specific source of the collapse, it is impossible to draw conclusions from inspection reports or violations found.

The building failed its most recent inspection in February 2020. Inspectors cited six alleged code violations including "dryer vents-missing flaps" for gas clothes dryers, washed out mortar on some of the parapet walls and junk and debris in the rear courtyard. Again, the City says those violations have been resolved.

Records reveal the building also failed city inspections in July 2019, twice in 2018, twice in 2017, and once in 2016, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.