Waukegan Fire Department releases update on silicone plant explosion


(@LakeCoILSheriff / Twitter)

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The Waukegan Fire Department released the following statement Saturday evening:

On Friday evening May 3, 2019 the Waukegan Fire Department was dispatched to the scene of an explosion in the area of Sunset and Northwestern on the northwest edge of the City. First arriving companies noted heavy damage and active fire conditions at the AB Specialty Silicones plant at 3790 Sunset Ave. Crews were also met by and immediately began treating injured subjects from the building.

Four subjects were treated and transported to area hospitals. Two to Advocate Condell and two to Vista east. Responding Waukegan Fire crews were quickly overwhelmed and a Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) fire box was initiated bringing other neighboring departments in to help with fire control. An additional MABAS Life safety box was also initiated due to unknown number of injuries.

Waukegan Fire personnel were able to work with plant management to determine how many, if any victims were missing. It was determined that three employees were unaccounted for.

During the course of the day, Waukegan Fire Personnel, along with Lake County Coroner staff were able to recover one deceased victim from the scene and the body was turned over to the Lake County Coroner for autopsy and identification. Unsafe structural conditions prohibited any further recovery efforts until additional heavy equipment could be brought in to help dismantle some of the heavy unsafe structural remains. .Additional equipment arrived at the scene in late afternoon and a crew of Waukegan Fire Personnel worked alongside the removal crew and staff from the Lake County Coroner’s office to conduct a further search for the two remaining unaccounted for workers. The search was called off at around 8pm this evening and will resume at approximately 9am central time tomorrow.

An investigator from the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s office also assisted Waukegan Fire Investigators with the investigation into the cause and the search for the two remaining unaccounted for subjects.

Lastly for this update, Waukegan Fire Investigators were informed later in the afternoon/evening hours by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office that one of the original subjects who was transported via ambulance from the scene initially had succumbed to their injuries from the incident. Any further information on identification or autopsy would need to be obtained from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

As of this update the victim count from this incident includes 2 confirmed fatalities, 3 persons treated and transported to area hospitals and 2 persons who were involved and required no aid. There also remains two persons unaccounted for.

Also as previously noted, the Illinois EPA assisted with air quality monitoring and water runoff monitoring and the Waukegan Fire Department was not made aware of any public health concerns from this incident. Due to the severity of this incident, investigators from OSHA were also on scene today to begin an investigation.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation.

At this time, no further updates are being planned unless new information becomes available.

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