Body found in house destroyed by explosion outside Gurnee
One person was found dead after a house just outside Gurnee was leveled by an explosion Friday evening.
Gurnee fire officials said the explosion on the 36000 block of Streamwood Drive is under investigation. The house earlier Friday was said to be vacant, but the Lake County sheriff's office said later a body was found at the scene, and Lake County Coroner Howard Cooper confirmed it.
Gurnee Battalion Chief James Pellitteri said the call came in around 6 p.m. When the first engine showed up, firefighters saw heavy fire. They pulled a couple of lines to fight the flames.
Both the houses to the north and south sustained substantial damage from the explosion but not the fire itself, and were declared uninhabitable.
Eric Mierzejewski lived in one of the adjacent homes declared uninhabitable. Mierzejewski, who was not at home at the time of the explosion, said it blew through a wall as well as his garage.
Neighbors reported hearing and feeling the blast.
"My husband was sitting in the living room, watching Hurricane Irma, and heard a big boom. Didn't know what it was. Thought it was my garage or my house," Cheryl Perez said. "We both ran out here (to the scene). I ran out here barefooted. "We saw all the debris everywhere. We saw the insulation. It looked like snow coming down in the middle of the street."
Jonathan Katz, who lives half a mile away, said his whole house shook.
"I thought it was an earthquake at first," he said."
Firefighters left a portion of the house burning on purpose because the gas line was unsecured, Pellitteri said.
"When a house explodes, all the utilities and the pipes break, so gas in its uncontrolled form will actually seep into the environment," he said. "Our tactic was to let it burn until the gas company came and actually turned off the gas."
The gas company came out quickly, he said, and brought equipment to the area. They dug up the street to shut off the gas, after which most of the fire went out. The fire department finished the salvage and overhaul work.
"If someone was in there, they would not have survived that blast," Pellitteri said earlier Friday.
Mierzejewski said the house that exploded was vacant and that he hadn't seen the owner in some time.
"He was pretty much a recluse. He was an older gentleman, but he had a son who lived with him, too," Mierzejewski said.