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2 dead, 2 missing after explosion, fire at Waukegan chemical plant

Fire crews work to extinguish the fire after an explosion at a chemical plant in Waukegan Friday evening | Photo by Jeff Rudolph of Box Alarm Photography.

Two people are confirmed dead and two others remain missing after a massive explosion at a chemical plant in Waukegan, fire officials said in an update Saturday evening.

Emergency crews responded around 9:30 p.m. Friday to AB Speciality Silicones, 3790 Sunset Avenue in Waukegan, for a reported explosion.

A portion of the factory was leveled by the explosion and heavily involved in fire. Firefighters were met with several injured workers and found heavy damage to the building, fire officials said.

Residents throughout Lake County reported feeling and hearing the explosion and some even felt it from more than 10 miles away.

Debris from the explosion covered Sunset Avenue near Northwestern Avenue as dozens of fire crews from throughout Lake County and Cook County responded to the scene.

Waukegan Fire Marshal Steve Lenzi said that nine people were working at the plant when the explosion occurred. Four workers were transported by ambulances to area hospitals. Two workers escaped without injury.

One of the workers who was transported to the hospital Friday evening later succumbed to his injuries, Lenzi said Saturday evening.

One of the three workers who was missing in the ruble was found dead Saturday morning by search crews. Two others remain missing, Lenzi said Saturday evening.

Hazardous materials technicians and technical rescue technicians were also called to the scene to monitor conditions and help search for victims.

Heavy-duty equipment was called to help remove debris while crews searched for the two missing workers. The search was suspended at 8 p.m. Saturday and is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Fire crews work to extinguish the fire after an explosion at a chemical plant in Waukegan Friday evening | Photo by Jeff Rudolph of Box Alarm Photography.

AB Speciality Silicones is a manufacturing and distribution company that specializes in producing raw silicone products.

The explosion damaged at least five other buildings in the area and damage is estimated to be in excess of $1 million, Lenzi said.

Representatives from the Illinois EPA, the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Lake County Emergency Management Agency were also called to the scene.

Fire officials said that the air quality in the area is safe and there is no harm to residents. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Lenzi said that there was no injuries to any emergency personnel.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of all involved in this horrific incident. Our personnel worked tirelessly through the night to control this scene with help from many neighboring agencies. This was a very large scale team effort,” Lenzi said.


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