WAUKEGAN, Ill. — Search and recovery personnel found the body of another worker Sunday, May 5 in the rubble of a northern Illinois silicone plant that exploded and burst into flames two days ago, bringing the death toll to three employees with one more body believed to be in the debris, a fire official said. One of those killed was Allen Stevens, a man from Salem.
Church of Joy members gathered Sunday to pray, knowing words would not be enough to describe what happened across the street at AB Specialty Silicones.
"My heart goes out to each and every one of them," said Carol Bowen, church member. "I'm sorry for the families. There's not a lot I can do with that but pray for them."
Waukegan Fire Marshal Steve Lenzi said the third body was found as first responders resumed searching in hazardous conditions in the shattered remains of the AB Specialty Silicones plant in Waukegan, about 50 miles (80 kilmoters) north of Chicago.
"This is, by no means, over until we locate all victims," said Lenzi.
They were searching for the bodies of two of the nine workers who were there when an explosion rocked the building Friday night and left it a shattered skeleton.
"We are in the process of removing one of those two bodies," Lenzi told a news conference Sunday. He said at least half of the building still needed to be searched.
Of the nine in the building at the time of the blast, one body was found early Saturday. Four people were taken to the hospital and one of those died later Saturday. The condition of the other three workers in hospital was not immediately known, Lenzi said. The third confirmed death was the body located Sunday with one other body still to recover. Two other workers did not require treatment at the time.
"The individuals that perished in this incident weren't just trying to save -- they actually saved the lives of their co-workers," said George Bridges, Waukegan fire chief.
The cause of the explosion hasn't been determined, although Lenzi said it originated in the building where the silicone is produced. AB Specialty Silicones makes specialty silicone chemical raw materials for products such as adhesives, sealants and coatings.
"Silicone itself not a hazardous substance. Something in that building went horrifically wrong, and that's what our investigation is going to come up with," said Lenzi.
Lenzi said authorities have concluded that explosion and fire was accidental.
"We are not looking at foul play," he said.
Lenzi said that from information they have gleaned in the preliminary investigation, some of the employees realized something was wrong and alerted others to get out of the building just before the explosion.
Lake County Coroner Howard Cooper said that his office would perform autopsies Monday on the two bodies found and would announce the names of the victims and preliminary causes of death. Dental records would be used to identify at least one of the deceased, he said. He addressed the precariousness of the search for victims.
"We can't go in there and do what we want to do quickly because the building is not structurally sound. We have to go in and be very careful and we can't risk anybody else getting hurt or killed doing this recovery effort," said Cooper.