Elderly woman injured in Willowbrook explosion caused by gasoline leak

WILLOWBROOK, Ill. (WLS) -- Investigators said a gasoline leak into sewage pipes was the cause of a large explosion and fire at a condo building in south suburban Willowbrook.

More than 20 buildings are completely dark in the Knolls Condominium complex in the 6100-block of Knoll Wood Road Friday night.

"I didn't smell anything, to be honest, it's just dark and scary. I wouldn't spend the night there," Sanja Edrovska, resident, said.

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Fire officials believe the gasoline leak originated at a Speedway gas station in neighboring Westmont. There is still gasoline running through sewers from Westmont to the water reclamation plant eight miles east, fire officials said.

"Speedway and contractors removed 60,000 gallons of water and gas," said Westmont Deputy Fire Chief James Connolly. "We believe we have the source of the problem isolated."

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An 80-year-old woman was injured in an explosion in Willowbrook Friday morning. A total of 10 explosions have been reported due to a gasoline leak.

Officials continue to flush out the sewers and are also trying to open the sewers so the gasoline fumes can escape. Fire officials said there have been more than 10 explosions as a result of the gasoline leak, and no further serious injuries have been reported.

"All of a sudden I hear this big boom and I looked out my window and I could see the debris from the first floor," said Mary Schueren.

Schueren said the debris came from her neighbor, 80-year-old Marge Rice's, home. Rice said she was putting coins in the dryer in the building's laundry room when the explosion happened.

"Her hair was singed, she had some burns on her arms and was very shaken, shaky. She did not want to come out of the building, out of her apartment, so we got her out of there," said neighbor David Dalporto.

Rice was taken to Loyola Hospital to treat second degree burns and is expected to be okay.

"What the fire department has determined either gasoline or some other flammable chemical had been introduced to into the sanitary system," said Willowbrook Fire Chief Robert Pavelchik.

Anyone who lives in the area and notices the smell of gasoline should open their windows and doors, turn off all ignition sources, and call 911. Fire officials said people are allowed to use their appliances.

At the condo building, all ignition sources - both electric and gas - were immediately turned off and residents were evacuated from their homes. But the calls for help actually started Thursday night, when residents reported smelling gas.

"We had to sleep in our front room because in our room, in the master bedroom where me and my girlfriend sleep, the bathroom smelled like gas. I smelled gas all through our bathroom," said resident Christopher Simmons.

"They couldn't find the source and here we are again this morning, in the same neighborhood," Pavelchik said.

"I believe they could have did more than what they did last night. All they did was come here and turned off the alarm and left," Simmons said.

The Chicago Red Cross said in a tweet they will not be opening a shelter, but are assisting people displaced from the explosion.

Firefighters responded to a separate fire early Friday afternoon in the 300-block of 63rd Street. They were able to rescue a dog from the smoky blaze and no one was hurt.
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