Crews assessing damage after Illinois gas explosion kills 1

Emergency personnel investigate the damage done from an explosion to Advanced Rehab and Sports Medicine in Canton, Ill., Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Authorities say one person was killed and several people injured in a natural gas explosion in the central Illinois community of Canton. The Peoria Journal Star reported the explosion occurred just before 6 p.m. in a building along First Avenue. Officials say the explosion Wednesday evening occurred near the downtown square and damaged several buildings. (Lewis Marien/The Journal-Star via AP)


CANTON, Ill. (AP) — The area around a downtown square was closed Thursday as crews assessed damage from a natural gas explosion that killed one person and injured several others in the central Illinois community of Canton.

The Fulton County Emergency Services and Disaster Agency said early Thursday that secondary searches found no additional casualties and area businesses would remain closed for the day.

The explosion Wednesday evening occurred near the downtown square and damaged several buildings. It shattered windows several blocks away and forced the evacuation of residents from nearby apartment buildings, officials said.

Jill Dillefeld, of Canton, a psychiatric nurse, told the (Peoria) Journal Star that she was eating at a bar about a block from the square when she heard “the biggest kaboom I have ever heard in my life.”

“Everyone jumped,” she said. “The door where I was sitting blew open.”

Authorities said the cause of the explosion, which occurred at the Opera House Professional Center, hasn’t been determined. The explosion happened shortly before 6 p.m. after Ameren Illinois workers arrived around 5:30 p.m. following a report that a contractor had damaged a gas line.

“The crew squeezed off the gas and was in the process of making repairs when the explosion occurred,” Ameren Illinois said in a statement. “We are investigating the cause of the incident and have no other details to report at this time.”

A news conference is planned for Thursday.

Authorities said 11 victims were taken to Graham Hospital in Canton. Fulton County Coroner Steve Hines said one of the victims — an Ameren Illinois employee — later died at the hospital. The worker has not been identified.

One victim was taken to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria with non-life threatening injuries.

Canton, a city of about 14,000, is about 30 miles southwest of Peoria.

The Fulton County Emergency Services and Disaster Agency reported that multiple buildings had been damaged and that large amounts of debris were scattered around the town square. Onlookers reported that the historic 19th century Opera House, which now houses offices, had been severely damaged by the blast.

“We have structural engineers in the area checking area buildings. This is a very slow and methodical process. They are working hard and as fast as possible,” the Fulton County ESDA said in a statement.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s