SAYBROOK — It may be weeks before final answers are known in the case of a fatal home explosion Saturday in Saybrook because both the causes of the blast and resident Charlene Durham’s death remain under investigation.
Multiple injuries, including fractures of the ribs, pelvis and left leg, and pre-existing medical conditions likely contributed to Durham’s death, McLean County Coroner Beth Kimmerling said Monday in announcing the autopsy findings. “Prior to making a final cause of death determination, histology (a microscopic tissue exam) and toxicology tests will be requested and reviewed by this office,” Kimmerling said via email.
Saybrook Fire Chief Chad Benjamin said a preliminary investigation indicates there may have been a natural gas line problem at 115 S. Monroe St., but Nicor Gas and the state fire marshal’s office had investigators on the scene Monday.
“We’re not going to know for some weeks what happened,” Nicor Gas spokesman Bernie Anderson said. “It is still under investigation.”
Durham, 60, was pronounced dead at 4:43 p.m. Saturday at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington.
Benjamin was outside raking leaves about 12:45 p.m. Saturday, just two houses down from 115 S. Monroe, when he heard the blast that leveled the house.
“The explosion was very loud,” he said. “My brother was with me and we just took off running to the house. It was very chaotic. Everyone heard it and we had neighbors there right away to try and help.”
Benjamin assessed the scene to determine the number of potential victims and the extent of any injuries. Help came from MABAS Division 41 fire investigators and several area fire departments.
Durham was one of three people in the house. Two teens, her granddaughter, Korri Gilbert, and Gilbert’s friend, Savannah Wallen, were in the house and transported to OSF St. Joseph Medical Center. They were treated and released.
Benjamin said Durham was trapped in the house following the explosion, but she was able to communicate with first responders.
“She was in a crawl space, and in a situation like that, safety remains your top issue,” he said. “Our priority was to get her out, but to get her out safely. We are all very disappointed because she was a terrific lady and everyone loved her.”
Roger Miller contributed to this report.