NEWMAN, Ill. (WCIA) – “The explosion was so bad that it felt like somebody hit us,” Melinda Labaume said.
Labaume was at work Sunday when a house exploded just down the street in Newman.
“We went outside, and then I saw the smoke… It looked like it was coming from my house,” she said.
As Labaume got closer, she realized it was her neighbor’s house, and noticed her car was outside.
“I wasn’t even thinking – I just ran and jumped in,” she said.
Labaume said she knew her neighbor was home.
“You could hear her. She was saying ‘help,’ or ‘daddy.’ It was one or the other, and she kept saying it,” she said.
Now, all that’s left of 306 Broadway Street is a pile of debris and ash. That’s where Labaume found her neighbor – who was immediately airlifted to the hospital.
“She told me she was turning on her stove and it exploded,” she said.
At about 12:03 in the afternoon, Newman Fire Protection District Chief Wade Hales was called to the scene, and it was unlike any he had responded to before.
“First time for everything,” Hales said.
Everyone we spoke to was shocked by the blast.
“A house down the street has their windows blown out. That’s a heck of an explosion to cause that much damage,” family member Kraig Watson said.
The State Fire Marshal is helping investigate the cause of the explosion. Hales said it damaged the house next door – where neighbors say the victim’s father lives.
“The only thing that we can honestly say is the potential for natural gas,” Hales said.
Hales said they had help from the Brocton, Hume, Oakland and Camargo fire departments.
“When we live in small communities, it takes multiple agencies to help with situations that occur like this. It’s what living in a small town is all about,” he said.
That’s why Labaume said she ran right into the smoke. She said she loves her community. After helping her neighbor, she brought food to everyone on scene, and plans to collect donations for the people who lost their homes.
“It’s just a momma thing. When you see somebody and you hear somebody, that’s just human nature. You’re supposed to go and you’re supposed to help the other,” Labaume said.
The restaurant labaume works at, called Corn Crib, extended their hours to help feed those who responded to the explosion. We have no further update on the condition of the woman who was home when it happened.
Labaume said Corn Crib will be collecting donations of clothing, money and any other supplies the people who lost their homes might need.