CHICAGO — Following an explosion that rocked a West Side apartment complex Tuesday, residents are finally being permitted back into the building to gather their belongings.
“I was here when the explosion happened,” said Reverend Alfred Howard. “I ran downstairs to make sure my daughter was ok … What I’m doing now is helping get things together, changing the locks.”
While Howard and other residents cleaned up and collected their things, the owner of the South Austin apartment complex — Roman Viere — said he has continued to ask questions, trying to figure out what may have been the cause.
“That was a powerful force,” Viere said, referencing the explosion. “The way the detective explained is that the amount of gas needed to build up to create that amount of force would have asphyxiated everyone in the building. That’s why they don’t believe it’s a gas explosion.”
Viere said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — or ATF for short — removed a section of the roof that was destroyed by the blast and discovered where the explosion originated.
“The unit was apartment 301,” Viere said. “The resident, as I understood, was severely burned and was intubated last night.”
Viere added that he did not know the medical condition of apartment 301’s tenant, but offered thoughts and prayers to him and his family.
Eight people in total were injured in the explosion. According to city records, the building had failed 12 inspections since 2010, but the city’s Department of Buildings said previous violations would not have played a factor in the blast.
Thirty-one of 35 units were occupied and Viere said each tenant has been offered new housing in apartments elsewhere with their rents and deposits being transferred along with.
Viere said he is unsure if the building is salvageable.
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