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Explosion levels house, several others damaged in suburban Long Grove

Emergency crews analyze fallout from explosithrocked Long Grove's Royal Melbourne subdivisiFriday night. | Joe Shuman/For Sun-Times Media

Emergency crews analyze the fallout from the explosion that rocked Long Grove's Royal Melbourne subdivision Friday night. | Joe Shuman/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 26, 2014 6:41PM

Preliminary investigation has revealed that the explosion in Long Grove Friday night, which leveled an upscale home in the Royal Melbourne subdivision, may have been caused by a natural gas leak, although further investigation is on-going, Lake County Sheriff’s officials said Saturday.

North Shore Gas was already in the area investigating a report of an odor of natural gas, Countryside Fire Protection District officials confirmed Saturday afternoon.

On Saturday morning North Shore Gas Company employees were on the scene as well as restoration crews and Lake County Sheriff’s police blanketed the area. Homeowners were carrying luggage from their homes that had much structural damage. Some predicted they would be in hotels for at least the next few nights.

Clusters of homeowners were still out on the street retelling stories about the unbelieveable explosion that rocked their neighborhood. Landscape crews could be seen cleaning up the insulation that had scattered all over with leafblowers. You could still see the insulation in trees and covering rooftops of homes.

Huge plywood boards were stuck like javelins in the ground in Sheiner’s neighbor’s front yard.

When fire crews arrived at 10:51 they found the house at 4771 Trenton Court destroyed by an explosion and on fire, Countryside fire officials confirmed. Approximately 50 other houses within a quarter mile radius sustained moderate to severe damage. Some of the homes closest to the explosion are uninhabitable, fire officials said. Two people sustained minor injuries and were evaluated and released at the scene.

Neighbor Joyce Link, who lives two blocks away from the home that exploded said she understood that her neighbor, Sheryl Sheiner, the owner of the home that was leveled to the ground, saw flames coming out of an outdoor generator around 10:30 Friday night.

Sheiner, who was home alone, walked out of her home to call 911 and within three minutes it went up, said Link, who used to have house dinners with the Sheiners and other local couples.

“Sheiner was 50 yards away from the house when it exploded,” Countryside Fire Department Deputy Chief Chuck Smith said Saturday. “She narrowly escaped injury. She was knocked to the ground and no debris hit her,” he said.

“The flames were two-stories tall and you could feel the blast a mile away,” Link said.

The blast rocked the upscale gated golf-course community, Royal Melbourne, and many developments that surrounded it, miles away.

“It was a loud undirectional sound, all-consuming. You could not tell which direction the explosion came from,” said Kort Crosby another nearby neighbor.

“Our windows blew out, whereas our neighbors blew in,” said Lyn Crosby, Kort’s wife.

“I spoke to Sheiner afterward. She was remarkably composed, but clearly in shock. She was unscathed, all things considered,” said Lyn Crosby.

“The neighborhood was raining insulation,” Kort said, from the house that was made of stucco that sat on an approximate two-acre plot.

Don Thorp, who lives next to the home that was leveled, said his neighbor’s house experienced two explosions — a small one that caused a fire in the back of the house and a bigger one that leveled the home.

Thorp said he ran out of his house in his underwear when he heard the first boom. He said Sheiner also ran out of her house. They both called 911. He said he told his neighbor not to return to her house because he feared that the fire might get out of control.

Three minutes later, the larger blast happened, Thorp said.

“I was knocked off of my feet by the second boom,” said Thorp, who was in his bedroom during that blast. “All my bathroom windows were blown out,” he added Friday night, noting that his entire home sustained extensive damage.

Thorp and his wife, who was in the street in her bathrobe following the blast, were unable to return to their home Friday night. Today he was able to return to retrieve some clothes.

Steve Lemberg, who lives a few blocks away from the blast, said he heard the explosion.

“My son and I were driving . . . and the explosion happened,” he said. “We thought something happened to the car. We entered the subdivision and we went inside and my wife said the house shook terribly. “We have had lightning bolts on the golf course and my wife said this was 10 times worse,” he said.

Neighbors and residents all over the Long Grove, Buffalo Grove and Lincolnshire areas continue to be stunned today at the magnatude of the blast. \Many local residents came running out of their homes Friday night, thinking an earthquake may have hit.

Carly Happ, 17, and her sister Lauren, were picking up the insulation Saturday morning along Preserve Parkway in the neighboring subdivision called The Preserve.

While picking up the scraps of insulation, that almost look like snow, they also found some pictures, pages from books, fantasy game cards and even a knife from a silverware set.

“We’re saving it, if it looks like it might have sentimental value,” said Lauren Zanotelli, adding it was a “miracle” no one was seriously

hurt. Happ said she was inside her home in The Preserves when the Long Grove explosion went off around 10:45 p.m., “and it literally was like a truck hit our house,” she said.

“The whole house shook and everyone came outside,” she said. “It was chaos.

“It could of been so much worse,” she added.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Deputies are securing the area, while dozens of Sheriff’s Office employees investigate the incident.

“We are working in collaboration with the ATF, Illinois State Fire Marshal and numerous fire departments,” the release said.

Fire departments from across Lake County responded. The neighborhood uses well water and has no fire hydrants. Numerous tanker trucks were brought in to drain water from nearby ponds to be used to help contain the fire.

Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas officials were also brought in to help turn off the gas line. Flames had been shooting up from the gas line for two or three hours at least before officials from the gas companies arrived to get the line shut down.

There was debris strewn all around the Royal Melbourne and The Preserves developments. Insulation from the house that exploded could be seen everywhere, almost like a coating of snow. It covered many nearby rooftops and traveled as far as the parkway on Route 83.

Due to the limited capabilities of the domestic water supply, nearly 90,000 gallons of water was hauled to the scene by fire department water tankers.

CFPD was assisted at the scene by the Mundelein, Libertyville, Lincolnshire, Wauconda, Lake Zurich, Long Grove, Gurnee, Knollwood, Lake Bluff, Barrington Countryside, Grayslake, Round Lake, Fox Lake, Lake Villa, Buffalo Grove, Lake Forest, North Chicago, Arlington Heights, Waukegan, and

Newport fire departments. Lake County Sheriff, MESS Canteen and the South Lake County CERT also provided support at the scene.

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