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Family of seven ‘grateful’ no one hurt in home explosion

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Updated: April 26, 2014 6:18AM



Their home destroyed by an explosion Monday afternoon, members of a Joliet family nonetheless were feeling fortunate even as they surveyed the rubble.

No one was hurt, after all — a fact they attributed to timing, with not a lot of margin to spare. Homeowners Frank and Natalie Klimala have five kids living with them, but one daughter is away at college and the other four kids weren’t home from school yet, according to the family.

“I’m very grateful. Any later and this would have been a totally different story,” Natalie Klimala said before going to meet with investigators.

Fire crews responded to the 700 block of Lambeth Lane, which is southeast of the intersection of Gougar Road and U.S. 6 in New Lenox Township, at about 2 p.m. on reports that a house had exploded, Joliet Fire Department Battalion Chief Laroy Aldridge said. The home was “pretty much leveled” in the explosion, which Aldridge said was likely caused by natural gas.

“There’s only one thing that would cause an explosion like this and that’s natural gas,” Aldridge said.

Everyone who lives there was accounted for, he said.

There was a cat, turtle and lizard that did not survive, neighbors said.

Aldridge said investigators would stay until dark and return Tuesday morning, with police securing the scene overnight.

Investigators will look at all the gas lines to see if there was a rupture or bad connections.

“They will have to do a lot of digging through the debris” to reach the lines in the basement, he said.

“Sometimes the cause is undetermined,” he said.

Natalie’s father, Bill Slama, said his daughter’s family had lived in the house about three years and that the furnace recently was replaced but there were no problems or signs that anything was wrong.

“I am shaking,” he said.

Asked how the family were doing, Slama said, “They’re shaken. It’s unbelievable. It certainly hasn’t set in yet.”

Three boys live in the house, one daughter is at college and one daughter splits time living there and with her mother. The daughter who is at college was on spring break last week.

Frank Klimala’s sister, Joyce Zelazik, said, “We are happy everyone is OK. We have life. We can always build another house.”

Asked if anything remained of the house’s contents, she said, “There’s nothing. ... As long as they’re OK, everything else can be replaced.”

A neighbor who lives directly to north tried to get into the house, thinking kids were home, but couldn’t, she said. A couch from the Klimalas’ home landed on the roof of that neighbor’s house.

Another neighbor, Mary Anne Mulder, who lives about a block south and works with Klimala’s other sister, Janice Wenzel, was home at the time and said the explosion “sounded like a bomb.”

She went outside but didn’t see anything, then shortly after heard sirens.

Mulder and Wenzel both work in Homer Glen schools but they are on break this week. She gathered up clothes from her closets for the family.

The Klimalas had been planning to host an Easter gathering.

Nicor spokeswoman Annette Martinez said the utility was working with the fire department to determine the cause.

Jim Forrest, who lives next door, said the homes on both sides were damaged, but “it’s hard to tell” how badly. Forrest was not home at the time of the explosion, he said.

Anthony Smith, another neighbor, said he heard the explosion and felt the ground shaking. Smith said he ran outside and saw the house collapse about five minutes after the explosion.

“There was stuff everywhere,” Smith said.

Lori Krumreich lives directly across the street.

“We heard a big boom, pictures fell off my wall, the dog went crazy,” she said. “I called 911, I looked outside and saw flames coming from the house across the street.”

Michael McDonald, who lives down the block, said he heard a loud bang and thought something fell inside his house. When he looked outside he saw neighbors running down the street.

“A lot of neighbors came running to help,” McDonald said. “My first instinct was to run in but I realized I needed to back away. The whole thing was in flames and then it was gone.”

Another neighbor, Kevin Brnich, said there was so much thick black smoke “you could not stand outside it was so bad.”

Contributing: LeeAnn Shelton



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