'Horrific' explosion injures at least 8 at Chicago apartment

At least eight people were injured during an explosion at an apartment Tuesday morning in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's West Side.

Henry Mims told us he was running late Tuesday morning otherwise he would’ve been inside his car that was covered in debris.

Ten ambulances were sent to the building, located at Washington Boulevard and West End Avenue, around 9 a.m., fire officials said.

All the victims were assumed to be adults, according to fire department spokesman Larry Langford.

  • Two men were taken to Loyola University Medical Center, one serious to critical and the other fair to serious, fire officials said.
  • A man was taken in serious to critical condition to Mount Sinai Medical Center. A man and a woman were also taken there, both fair to serious.
  • A woman was taken to West Suburban Medical Center in fair to serious condition.
  • Two men were later transported to Stroger Hospital, one in fair to serious condition and the other in serious to critical condition.

Firefighters are still searching for additional people who may be trapped inside the structure.


The cause of the explosion is currently unknown, per CFD.

"No one knows what the heck caused it," Langford told the Sun-Times.

David Schwartz, a spokesman with Peoples Gas, said their crews are at the scene but that they don't believe gas was the cause of the explosion.

"The cause of the incident is unknown, but there is no reason at this point to believe the cause is related to gas or any of our equipment. There is no smell of gas in the air or anything like that – our crews on the ground and CFD confirmed that," Schwartz said.

However, nearby resident Ashunda Harris said she could smell natural gas after the explosion. 

The force of the explosion blew her door open and shook her building. Harris said the first thing she thought of was potential fatalities.

"God, let there be survivors," Harris said. "Let them be at work. Let the children be at school. [Let] no one be home. When I walked up it was nothing but clouds, what was going on with the foundation collapsing. So my mind just went to please let no one be home right now."

Images and video shared by the Chicago Fire Department showed debris on top of cars and part of the top floor of an apartment complex blown away.

"I've heard trains collide. I've heard trucks hit the viaduct, so I know sounds and I've been here 20-plus years, so I knew it was something horrific happening," Harris said.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the CPD bomb unit are assisting with the investigation at the scene.

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Image provided by the Chicago Fire Department

The apartment building has failed 17 inspections since 2005, according to city records.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.