Search continues for final missing Waukegan explosion victim

WAUKEGAN, Ill. — The process of identifying the remains of victims of Friday night's Waukegan silicone plant explosion began Monday.

Three people are confirmed dead after the explosion at the AB Specialty Silicones factory: two men who died in the blast and a third who escaped, but later died at a suburban hospital.

Officials are now searching through rubble for the third and final man who did not escape the explosion. He is presumed dead.

The massive explosion and fire sent debris flying at least a mile away from the production plant. Residents 20 miles away reported feeling the blast, which went off about 9:30 p.m. Friday in the 3700 block of Sunset Avenue. The cause is still under investigation.

Nine people were at the plant at the time of the explosion. All but three made it out. Firefighters said those three men are heroes who worked to evacuate their co-workers after sensing something was wrong. Two bodies were recovered over the weekend; officials are still searching for the third.

Allen Stevens, 29, of Kenosha County, was one of the six people who escaped the building. He later died at the Loyola Medicine Burn Center.

On Saturday, heavy equipment was brought in to assist in searching the 30,0000 square-foot building.

But there's still one major challenge.

“It’s slow going," Lake County Coroner Dr. Howard Cooper said. "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. We can’t risk anyone else getting hurt or killed doing this recovery effort. Certainly we want to do what’s best for the families but we have to do it within reason."

Once the final body is recovered, investigators will shift their focus to the cause of the explosion.

Autopsies will be performed Monday on the remains of two individuals found over the weekend. Their names and preliminary cause of death are expected to be released.

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