Four people were transported to area hospitals after an explosion at the AB Speciality Silicone plant in Waukegan late Friday night.
Steve Lenzi, spokesman for the Waukegan Fire Department, said officials were working with a plant manager to determine how many people were working in the Sunset Avenue factory when the explosion happened.
Speaking around midnight, Lenzi added officials did not know what caused the explosion.
“We have fire and structural damage indicative of an explosion,” Lenzi said at the scene. “There is very heavy damage.”
Two people were taken to Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan and two were taken to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Lenzi added.
Mayor Sam Cunnigham appeared near the scene at Green Bay Road and Sunset Avenue and said to reporters that he wanted to thank all the first responders working on “this unfortunate situation.”
“I ask everyone out there to say prayers for the families of those that were hurt,” he said.
The explosion was heard and felt across Lake County around 9:45 p.m and was responded to by the Waukegan Fire Department.
Around 10 p.m., the Lake County Sheriff’s Office issued an alert via social media stating that “we are aware of a very loud explosion sound and ground shaking in the Gurnee area. We are working to determine the cause.”
About 20 minutes later, a followup post from the sheriff’s office alerted the public to “stay out of the area of Sunset Avenue from Green Bay to Delany, Waukegan! Please allow first-responders to conduct operations!! Area first-responders are on the scene of an explosion/building fire.”
Megan Hener, who lives on Atlantic Avenue six blocks from the scene, said she and her husband, Robert, drove down to the corner of Northwestern and Sunset avenues and posted a photo on social media that shows the building gone.
“It was leveled. It’s right across from the emission testing station,” she said, referring to a state of Illinois facility at 2161 Northwestern Avenue.
Hener added that ambulances were “racing by” where she stood around 10:30 p.m. She estimated the explosion occurred around 9:45 p.m.
“We thought it was the propane place (in Gurnee),” she said. “It shook our house and shook my insides.
“It was massive,” she added. “I’ve had friends from Antioch, Grayslake and Libertyville call to see if I am all right.”
According to the company website, AB Speciality Silicone is a manufacturing and distribution company specializing in silicone products.
Nancy Carreno, who lives on Atlantic Avenue near the plant, said the explosion didn’t break any windows but it was loud.
“The explosion was a big boom and the ground shook. Our cable TV flickered and the electricity, and then it came back on,” she said.
Per: Chicago Tribune