Cause not known yet in Mundelein house explosion that killed one
One person is confirmed dead and another seriously injured from a Mundelein house explosion and fire that rocked the Loch Lomond neighborhood on the village's north side Friday morning.
Lake County Deputy Coroner Orlando Portillo said that in addition to the fatality, a person who was in the house was taken to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville. A hospital spokeswoman said Phillip Thomason, a homeowner in his 40s, was being treated and is in critical condition.
Mundelein Fire Chief Tim Sashko said police interviewed a third person who was in the house but not injured in the blast, which originated in a garage area attached to the home on the 900 block of Killarney Pass Drive, just east of Midlothian Road.
Sashko said investigators "were not even close" to pinpointing what triggered the explosion. The blast jolted neighbors for blocks around and led them immediately to run outside to see what was happening.
Residents reported feeling the impact of dual explosions within seconds of each other.
Initially, it was just smoke, said Ethan Jones, who lives two doors away from the 50-year-old, split-level frame home.
"The smoke was billowing up hundreds of feet high. It was really frightening, and then we started seeing flames," he said. "There was rubble from their house strewn everywhere."
Authorities said roughly 80 firefighters from about a dozen fire departments assisted.
"The building was too far gone for us to even consider getting inside," said Mundelein Deputy Fire Marshal Mark Gaunky, adding that the explosion was felt at the fire station a few blocks west.
"We felt whatever it was at the fire station," he said. "We looked out the window and saw the smoke and said, 'We have something.'"
Thick, black smoke could be seen for miles and callers jammed emergency lines about 11:30 a.m. Friday.
Ed Garza, who was outside working on his lawn about five houses away when the blast occurred, said he felt the explosion.
"I was by my garage and I heard a big boom, and then I heard a subsequent boom," he said. "My wife came out and I said, 'Call 911.'"
Garza, who has lived in the area 21 years, said he saw a man walking near the house shortly after the explosion with a dazed look on his face.
"He had blood on the back of his head," Garza said.
"A bunch of neighbors went to the driveway to make sure the people were OK. One neighbor showed up with a fire extinguisher in his hands," said Garza's daughter, Alison.
Neighbor Annette Bracco said she tried to call 911 after the blast but the phone lines were so crowded with others that she was put on hold.
"I was sitting at my computer by the front window and I heard a click like my husband was home and shut the car door," Bracco said. "So I looked out the window and that's when it sounded like a cannon went off, and I saw the roof in the back blow up about two feet and the front of the house blew out."
Neighbor Ethan Jones said he was brushing his teeth when he heard the first explosion and then another two or three seconds later.
"It was massive. It was such a huge noise," he said. Within a short time, "you could see the flames bursting out of the windows," he added.
• Daily Herald staff writers Melissa Silverberg and Steve Zalusky contributed to this report.