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1 dead, 7 injured after explosion inside Chicago apartment building

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Eight people were hospitalized on Tuesday morning after a sudden explosion shook a residential apartment building in Chicago’s South Austin neighborhood and showered the street with bricks and other debris.  Three days later, Chicago fire officials said one person, identified by CBS Chicago as 29-year-old Shabron Robinson, died of his injuries. 

He had been taken to a local hospital with severe burns, Chicago Fire media tweeted

On Tuesday, officials said at least three of the people transferred from the scene to local hospitals had serious or critical injuries. Two of the victims were identified as female, while the other six were male, according to the fire department. One victim was in a building across the street from the explosion when it happened, Deputy Fire Commissioner Marc Ferman said during a press conference.

All of the other victims have since been released from the hospital, CBS Chicago reported Friday.

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Anthonella Wims, one of the injured — who was released from a local hospital Tuesday afternoon — told CBS Chicago that she was waiting at a bus stop across the street from the building when the explosion happened.

“So everything that blew up, it came to me first,” she said. “Glass, just everything. Everything on the top building just blew.”

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Wims said she initially thought the explosion was a terrorist attack.

“It just blew up out of nowhere. Everybody’s having a regular, normal morning, and it just blew up,” she added. 

Donell Adams, another of those injured, told CBS Chicago he was approaching the front door of the building when the blast pushed him back about eight feet.

Fire officials originally confirmed the explosion in a tweet around 9:45 a.m. local time. At the time, they noted that the four-story residential building and adjacent building were being evacuated. Ten ambulances and 135 first responders were called to the scene, Ferman said. 

Photos and videos shared to Chicago Fire’s Twitter page showed the explosion had destroyed the windows along at least one side of the apartment building and damaged part of the structure itself. A large pile of debris covered the sidewalk in front of and around the building, with more scattered across the street.

Shannon Nelson, a woman who lives nearby, told CBS Chicago she was lying in bed at the time of the explosion.

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“My bed shook almost like an earthquake,” Nelson said.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot thanked the fire department and department of buildings for their coordinated response to the collapse, as they worked to determine what caused the explosion.

“My thoughts are with those who were injured and displaced in the building collapse in the Austin neighborhood,” Lightfoot tweeted. “We must also thank the brave men and women of the Chicago Fire Department who are working to abate the dangerous conditions. I am closely monitoring the events and both the Chicago Fire Department and the Department of Buildings are onsite at the collapse. We will provide updates as the situation develops.”

Personnel from the fire department’s bomb unit as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were involved in the response, according to fire officials. 

Natural gas was the source of the ignition, fire officials said Friday, but they do not yet know what caused the ignition.

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The apartment building had failed annual inspections repeatedly over the last 12 years, and received citations in 2017 and 2018 for “failing to repair or replace defective or out of service smoke detectors and operate continuously,” CBS Chicago previously reported. 

Peoples Gas, the provider that services the apartment building, turned off the gas after the explosion on Tuesday. It said at the time that, so far, there was no evidence to suggest a gas-related issue caused the incident, according to CBS Chicago.

The building’s owner, Roman Viere, said in a statement Friday, “We are sad to hear of the passing of one of our residents. Our prayers and thoughts go out to his family. We are grateful that there was no further loss of life from this tragedy.”

“We understand that, in many cases, our residents’ entire lives were in those apartments,” the statement, obtained by CBS Chicago, continued. “It’s been our privilege to provide quality, affordable housing and we are doing everything we can to ensure that they continue to have the stability of a place to call home in a time when their lives are turned upside down.”

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