An explosion destroyed a house outside Washington early Wednesday, hurtling two residents outside, police said.
The blast occurred just before 1:45 am at 24300 Farmdale Road, said Jeff Lower, chief deputy for the Tazewell County Sheriff's Office. Deputies, along with the Northern Tazewell Fire Department, arrived to find the property heavily strewn with debris, with the house fully ablaze, he said. They also found two residents — a husband and wife — outside the house.
The husband was lying about 20 feet from the house, conscious and asking for help.
A relative contacted on Facebook did not want to be named but said the victims are Paul and Valerie Litten. The relative said they were taken to a burn unit at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield and were expected to remain there at least through Thursday..
Lower said their injuries included severe burns and a broken leg to the wife, but were not life-threatening.
"You'd think that someone would die in something as bad as that," Lower said.
Debris littered the yard, and Northern Tazewell Fire Chief Rick Ragan said the fire destroyed two vehicles and stretched more than 150 feet from the house to the vehicles to a recreational vehicle which was obliterated.
On Wednesday, the city of Springfield and its Firefighter Pension Board argued over whether a judge should answer a question regarding pensions now or later.
Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt said he would decide Friday whether the case goes forward.
At issue is whether current firefighters’ holiday pay, or the additional pay they earn for working on a holiday, should count toward their pension benefits. The board is asking the court to decide, while the city contends that the judge could not enforce the ruling.
Don Craven, attorney for the pension board, said Wednesday's arguments did not get to heart of the issue.
“What I refer to as the elephant in the room is the constitutional question of changing the formula for the award of pensions for firefighters who have been on the job for 20 or 25 years,” Craven said.
He has argued that the board could face legal action from current firefighters if it decides to exclude holiday pay. Under the Illinois Constitution, public retirement benefits cannot be diminished.
The Illinois Supreme Court hears cases concerning constitutionality.
Springfield State Journal-Register
Two people were being questioned Wednesday in connection with a South Chicago neighborhood apartment fire that killed four people, including three young sisters.
No charges have been filed in the fire, but it is being investigated as an arson.
The fire killed Kirk Johnson, 56, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. Three sisters -- Shaniyah Staples, 7; Madison Watson, 4; and Melanie Watson, 3 months; who lived in a top-floor apartment -- were also killed.
On Wednesday, outside the apartment complex near East 81st Street and South Essex Avenue, a memorial was set up for the victims.
Meanwhile investigators found nine locations where accelerants had been used, both inside and outside the building, including at a wooden stairwell.
Sharon Moore, a neighbor, brought her grandson, to the site Wednesday to say a prayer for the victims. Kyran, 7, placed an angel next to the stuffed animals and candles. Moore said the fire hit close to home.
"When I was 15, I was in a fire just like this. We did have two people die in the building, in the courtyard, the same way. I grew up over here all of my life, so it touched me. It's sad," Moore said.
WLS-TV ABC 7 Chicago
A tractor-trailer driver died Wednesday morning in a crash on Interstate 270 in Glen Carbon.
Illinois State Police Trooper Calvin Dye Jr. said the driver “abruptly jerked hard to the left” while driving in the eastbound lanes of the interstate at mile marker 10.
The driver has been identified as Brian Westerfield, 47, of Freeburg, Dye said.
Dye said the cause of the crash was still under investigation, but police said Westerfield had possibly suffered a medical emergency. Authorities said Westerfield swerved to the left, crossed the center median and struck a tree. The truck was hauling 20,000 pounds of sand, police said. Dye said there appeared to be “no effort from the driver to try to stop” the truck from crashing.
The truck caught fire after the crash, and Westerfield was pronounced dead at the scene by 10 a.m. Wednesday.
As traffic backed up on eastbound I-270, two other crashes occurred Wednesday morning near the fatal crash scene, Dye said.
One person suffered minor injuries in one those crashes.
Dye said troopers often have to deal with ensuing crashes near major accident scenes.
Nothing can match the raw emotion and anguish that Americans felt in the moments and days following the terrorist attacks in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Wednesday, propped up by a 15-year cushion of history, came about as close as it can get.
"It's important to us, it's what brought us here today, that we never forget that day. I know we won't," said Capt. Vinnie Doherty of the New York Fire Department on Wednesday morning during a welcoming presentation of a traveling 9/11 exhibit. It's set up in the open semi-tractor trailer parked in the Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino parking lot through Monday. "I personally lost 19 of my men from my firehouse that responded on a call and then never returned to the firehouse that night." The mobile exhibit "Never Forget" was created and funded by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. It is dedicated to the 414 FDNY firefighters and police who sacrificed their lives responding to terrorists' assaults by hijacked planes on the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. In total, 2,606 people died at the towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Filled with panels of information, artifacts and more, the exhibit is open from noon until 7 p.m.
Following a presentation of the colors by members of the East Peoria Fire Department, and a flawless rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" by Assistant Fire Chief Ryan Beck, Mayor Dave Mingus addressed the crowd.