Two men are confirmed dead and two are seriously hurt after a tractor hit an underground natural gas line, causing an explosion.
The call came in at 9:02 a.m. for an explosion north of Illinois Route 38, leading to a large fire.
First responders arrived to find a large fire coming from a large gas pipeline which was extinguished when the pipeline’s owner, Kinder Morgan, cut gas to it.
A preliminary investigation determined that workers in the area were installing field tile when a tractor became stuck. The workers attempted to use a second tractor to pull out the first tractor when the tractor struck the cross-country gas line as it sunk deeper into the ground, striking and cracking the underground pipeline.
Two men were pronounced dead at the scene, while two more were taken by medical helicopter to a Rockford hospital, where one is in critical condition while the other is listed in stable. Police say neighbors aided the two victims and took them to a local hospital from where they then flown to Rockford. The names of the victims are not yet being released.
The area is secure and safe, and there were no evacuations, although Illinois 38 was blocked for a time. Pipeline officials say a second large gas pipeline near the area was not damaged, and there was no loss of service. Because the pipeline is federally regulated, the NTSB will assist in the investigation.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Illinois State Police are responding to reports of a large explosion near Nachusa.
One witness at the scene tells WTVO-TV a tractor hit a gas line there, creating the explosion. Authorities have not confirmed that information. The coroner was called for a fatality.
A gas company is there making sure the gas line is now safe. The State Fire Marshal is handling the investigation.
Our sister site, MyStateline.com, has a crew headed to the scene.