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3 men killed in explosion near Starved Rock were ‘cousins and uncles’ from Chicago area, coroner says

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NORTH UTICA — The three people who died Thursday when they ignited a black powder substance that exploded along a bank of the Illinois River next to Starved Rock State Park were men from the Chicago area who were related, the LaSalle County coroner said Saturday.

Coroner Rich Ploch did not identify them but said their names would likely be released Monday as authorities continue investigating the detonation that Ploch said appears to be an “accident.”

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“We’re not concerned (about) any public safety or any foul play,” Ploch said on the phone. “It does look like some type of an accident. We’re still trying to work with the state police, and then they’re working with the FBI and the bomb squad experts, in order to identify what exactly happened.”

Ploch said the men were from the “Chicago area,” ranged in age from mid-20s to mid-50s and were “cousins and uncles.”

The Thursday explosion happened about 75 miles southwest of Chicago, spurring first responders to arrive shortly after 7 p.m. at the old Illinois Route 178 bridge, state police said.

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They discovered three men who died from injuries they received in the explosion, Ploch said. Autopsies are ongoing.

Ploch had said investigators determined the men ignited a black powder along the river bank. He had no further information Saturday on the substance, which he said could take weeks to process through laboratory tests.

Anyone with information about the incident was urged to call state police at 815-726-6377.


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