'Entombed' Worker Saved After Water Plant Building Collapses

Bob Roberts
August 30, 2018 - 11:29 am

WBBM Newsradio/Mike Krauser

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Chicago firefighters won a race against time Thursday by freeing a worker who was entombed beneath tons of rubble after an explosion and roof collapse at a Far South Side water-treatment plant.

The blast, at about 10:45 a.m., pancaked the roof of the Calumet Water Reclamation plant’s sludge concentration building at 400 E. 130th St. Eight workers there walked out and a ninth was freed quickly.

But firefighters had to dig several feet to get to a 10th, "entombed' worker, outgoing Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago told reporters. The worker’s legs were pinned, he said.

EMS officials guided rescue workers to ensure the worker didn’t go into shock, Santiago said. The worker kept talking and never lost consciousness, he said.

Once freed, the worker was taken by helicopter to the University of Chicago Medical Center.

The cause of the explosion and building collapse is under investigation, but Santiago said it’s possible there had been a buildup of naturally occurring methane gas from the reclamation process.

As of 4:30 p.m.. Thursday, five of the workers who were hurt had been treated and released from hospitals. None of the others hurt had injuries that appeared to be life-threatening.

Two patients were brought to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. A spokeswoman for University of Chicago Medical Center said four other patients were brought in for treatment. By Friday morning, one of them remained in serious condition, another remained in fair condition and the two others had been released.

The hospital and conditions of the four other workers who were hurt was not immediately known.

According to the Chicago Fire Department, OFI reports the cause of the explosion was the use of a torch in an area with significant amount of methane gas present which caused ignition and shock wave that lifted roof.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">OFI reports cause of Explosion at water sewage treatment plant was use of torch in area with significant amount of methane gas present which caused ignition and shock wave that lifted roof.</p>&mdash; Chicago Fire Media (@CFDMedia) <a href="https://wbbm780.radio.com/%3Ca%20href%3D"https://twitter.com/CFDMedia/status/1035561409172697088?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">https://twitter.com/CFDMedia/status/1035561409172697088?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 31, 2018</a></blockquote>
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