Illinios Shopping Mall Explosion Injures 9

February 28, 2008 2:08:27 PM PST
An explosion ripped through a shopping plaza in Waukegan Thursday sending eight people to the hospital.

Firefighters from several departments are on the scene. Several businesses were gutted by the explosion.

Crews have already begun the process of cleaning up the area, even as the eight people with the most significant injuries are still being treated.

Now, imagine the fear for firefighters and police when they first rolled up and saw what looked like bodies littered across Grand Avenue. The first rescue crews responded to this scene in Waukegan just after noon. There were hands and a few arms, but they belonged to mannequins that were blown out of the front window of a tuxedo shop.

Businesses were rattled by this blast. Investigators think that it originated toward the rear of the tuxedo store and Cleopatra's hair salon. Employees and customers were inside when the walls shuddered and the roof came crashing in. And all of that briefly trapped two people.

"Our firefighters were controlling the fire. After that, we had members who were firefighters and also members of our structural collapse and technical rescue team make an active rescue while the firefighting efforts were going on. They used airbags and other shoring to get to those persons," said Chief Patrick Gallagher, Waukegan Fire Dept.

"The explosion actually lifted the roof and then came back down and collapsed the walls," said Dep. Chief Dan Young, Waukegan Fire Dept.

Peoples Gas had to shut off gas to several nearby homes and businesses. That's so the fire crews could safely work in this area without fear of triggering a secondary blast.

While there is no confirmation at this point, fire officials in Waukegan say there are no signs of anything sinister. All signs to them at this hour appear to be a natural gas explosion.

There was briefly concern that there was one person unaccounted for. That's because a couple of the people who were inside these businesses said they thought that somebody else was there and that person didn't make it out. But there have been several searches, and while crews haven't covered every square inch of the businesses that have been damaged, the fire department says they are highly confident that they've gotten everyone out.


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