08/02/06 Steve Jankowski's report from NewsChannel 5 at 6
08/02/06 Ann Rubin's report from NewsChannel 5 at 10
(KSDK) - A house explosion Wednesday morning in Carlinville, Ill., killed a woman and her grandson and injured three others. Police say they believe it was a natural gas explosion.
The explosion happened around 7:30 at a home in the 200 block of Sue Street. A neighbor says Margaret “Sherry” Hatlen, 55, was inside the home with her two sons, Tom Hatlen, 27 and Coady Hatlen, 15 and her nine-year-old grandson Michael Albracht.
Mayor Robert Schwab says Margaret was found in the basement. Michael was pulled from the rubble. (Click here to listen to a 10:15 a.m. interview with Carlinville Mayor Robert Schwab)
Carlinville Police Chief Dave Haley says Tom suffered burns over 30 percent of his body and Cody was severely burned. Both were airlifted to Memorial Hospital's Burn Center in Springfield. Tom is listed in good condition; Coady is listed in critical condition.
Nora O'Neil, 88, who was in a neighboring home was taken to a hospital with lacerations. She was transferred to St. John's Hospital in Springfield and released Wednesday afternoon.
The police chief says at least 15 homes were damaged by the explosion; at least one other was destroyed.
“All you could see was flames. There was about five or six people who were going through the rubble from the house and the flames were shooting up 15 feet in front of their faces,” says neighbor Lisa Edwards.
"It was not just a flame. It was like somebody dropped a bomb," says Virginia Rhodus, who witnessed the explosion.
Debris from the explosion was strewn in yards within a one-block radius -- everything from insulation to a frying pan to a sink and a leg from a kitchen table.
It also knocked out power throughout town. At one point Wednesday, a four-block area around the explosion site was blocked off.
The Illinois state fire marshal and crews from Ameren are investigating whether the explosion was caused by natural gas.
Haley says police suspect a natural gas leak because residents detected the smell of gas last night but apparently didn't report it.
A cooling center has been set up at Blackburn College for residents without power.
Carlinville, a town of about 5,800, is 60 miles northeast of St. Louis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.