Chicago Under Investigation: Austin Neighborhood Building Collapse Claims Life and Injured Many

WLS-TV in Chicago reports The cause of a building explosion and collapse in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood remained unknown Wednesday.

“I’ve been asking the same question; I have no idea what it was,” property owner Roman Viere explained.

Building Explosion

The Tuesday collapse and explosion injured eight people, three seriously injured.

The surveillance captured the explosion video. A woman standing idly on the sidewalk flees in terror, dodging bricks, cement, and shards of glass thrown into the street.

Another view of the explosion shows a bright orange flash, a split second that destroyed dozens of families’ homes and lives.

Mack Julion’s coworker, a West Side postal worker, was killed among the rubble inside the building.

“He is currently in critical condition. Currently, all we can do is believe, he said.
“It’s surreal,” Viere commented. “Nothing could have prepared you for our situation today.”

Reports of Chicago Fire Department

According to Larry Merritt of the Chicago Fire Department, six people were hospitalized following a building collapse in South Austin.

Viere owns the now-damaged structure.

“It was just breathtaking when I arrived on site, and “I saw rubble all over the street, including on top of that one car,” he said. “You immediately think of a war zone.”
“I saw rubble all over the street, including on top of that one car,” for about a half-hour to retrieve whatever belongings they could.

“I snatched a picture of my mother and father that was hanging on the wall, and there are a lot of personal items that I had. That can’t be replaced,” said resident David Howard.
He also photographed the damage while inside and is grateful he was not in the building at the time of the explosion.

“A lot of people came out with their clothes on their backs,” he said.
The blast occurred around 9 a.m. on the building’s top floor, located at West End and Central Avenue.

The force of the blast that caused a South Austin apartment building to collapse partially was so powerful that people living across the street felt it and were injured.
That blast could be felt after blocks. The explosion’s debris impaled a building across the street.

Building Blast Felt all Over the Neighborhood

I’ve never witnessed anything like it, James said Fenton, who lives next door to the exploding building.

Deputy Commissioner Marc Ferman of the Austin Fire Department describes the response to an explosion and building collapse in South Austin.
“When the building shook, I thought to myself, ‘What the hell was shaking the building like that?'” he explained.

The ABC7 I-Team discovered online records highlighting a history of inspection failures and alleged code violations at the building. Still, Viere claims that “nothing that came up in any of those inspections had anything to do with what happened yesterday.”

As the sun shines on the tenants’ belongings, which are now visible from the street, Viere says he is focused on ensuring the well-being of his residents.

“My heart breaks for them,” he said. “We prayed for them last night when I got home with my family. It’s heartbreaking, and we want to do everything we can to assist them.”

Building Owner’s Opinion

The property owner also stated that his office assists all affected residents in securing housing.

He couldn’t say whether the building would be demolished.
According to one resident, the owner and building management do not provide enough.

“They’re trying to put us in another apartment that’s $150 more than what we’re paying for now, and once we tell them we can’t afford that because we’re already in an uncomfortable situation and weren’t expecting this to happen,” said one unidentified resident.

In a statement, an Urban Alternatives spokesperson said, “Eight of the 31 families chose new medium-term housing, and the remaining 23 families were all offered new apartments. Urban Alternatives will transfer all residents’ rents and deposits to cover expenses at their new homes.”

Explosion Victims’ Testimony

ABC7 spoke with some explosion victims, who described the chaotic moments following the explosion.

Eric Hune fell to the ground. “I had only recently gotten up from the floor. He didn’t even realize I was falling. I leaped to my feet and dashed out the door.”

He also stated, “I awoke on the floor. I can’t remember ever collapsing. I only remember getting up and going.”

Alderman Chris Taliaferro responds to a building collapse in South Austin.
He described the third-floor hallway as a fog of chaos, a mix of disorienting panic, dust, and doors were blown off hinges.

“They couldn’t see where to go because there was so much smoke as I was running out,” he explained. “Many of us were running out that I lost count.”

Residents took Shelter in the Church Nearby.

A nearby church also functioned as a Red Cross shelter for displaced residents, providing food and a place to sleep.

Many people fled without their cell phones, identification, or medications.

“My home’s foundation shook like an earthquake,” said Ashunda Harris, who lives in a nearby apartment. “I noticed a smoke cloud coming from the building. It was not firing smoke, but rather a foundation smoke.”

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