February 29, 2000
BY MAUREEN O’DONNELL STAFF REPORTER
An equipment fracture created a gas leak that caused the explosion that leveled a Southwest Side home Sunday, according to the Chicago Fire Department.
“There was a leak in the line, the flexible line coming to the gas cooking stove,” said Fire Department spokesman Bill Norris. “That natural gas leak was ignited and that’s what caused the explosion and ensuing fire.”
A fracture was found in the uncoated brass flexible connector, which links the stove to the gas line, said Peoples Energy Vice President Desiree Rogers. The connector is made of tubing that resembles a goose-neck lamp.
Fire investigators “actually did see an opening” in the connector, Rogers said. “If there’s a fracture in that, then you’ve got gas escaping.”
The blast destroyed a home at 5214 S. McVicker belonging to Peter Honcharevich, 85, and his wife Anne, 79. He was in critical condition and she was in “very critical condition” Monday at Loyola University Medical Center. She had burns on 84 percent of her body, said hospital spokesman Michael Maggio.
If air becomes composed of as little as 5 percent natural gas, an explosion can be set off by friction as slight as a key turning in a lock or a light being switched on, or the mere presence of a pilot light, Rogers said.
“It’s a perfect environment for there to be an explosion,” Rogers said. Two other adjacent severely damaged homes probably will have to be demolished, according to the city Building Department.
Investigators from the Fire Department’s Office of Fire Investigation, the Police Bomb and Arson unit and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are not sure what ignited the blast, Norris said.
Consumers concerned about whether their homes contain outmoded uncoated brass flexible connectors should have an inspection by a private heating, venting, air conditioning or plumbing contractor, Rogers said. Newer connectors need to be replaced every 10 years.
Even if your appliances are new, “That doesn’t mean that . . . you don’t have an outmoded connector,” Rogers said.
Customers can also schedule an inspection by calling Peoples Energy at (312) 240-7000. The utility charges $12 for testing and $32 for each connector replaced, said spokesman Luis Diaz-Perez.
The injured couple’s children, Gregory Honcharevich and Carol Hager, announced Monday through Maggio that a foundation for blast victims is being established at LaSalle Bank, 6331 S. Archer, Chicago 60638. The McVicker Avenue Foundation will assist the Honcharevich family and others who suffered damage or injury from the explosion, Maggio said. Three other neighbors were slightly injured, but were treated and released.
Gas appliances should be handled by the professionals. Call Leinbach Services Inc. To check all your gas connectors.
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