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3 men found dead after explosion near Utica; no criminal activity suspected

Authorities are sure of one thing regarding Thursday night’s explosion near Utica: the three men killed in the blast were not part of a terror cell and do not appear to have been contemplating any criminal mischief.

La Salle County Coroner Rich Ploch said he and numerous agencies have reached only a few preliminary observations. Authorities are for sure the material ignited Thursday had not come from the nearby demolition remnants of the former Route 178 bridge.

But where the material came from may not be known for some time, Ploch said.

Authorities, including the FBI, collected a sample of what’s being reported as “a type of black powder substance” and it will undergo analysis Ploch said will take time to investigate.

“It’s probably going to be awhile before we find that out unfortunately,” Ploch said of the investigation of the material believed to have caused the explosion.

An autopsy will be conducted Friday on the three men who died.

Ploch said the incident appeared to be an unfortunate accident with no signs of foul play.

The identifies of three men who died are being withheld pending notification of their families, according to authorities.

The La Salle County Coroner’s Office, Utica Police Department, Utica Fire-EMS, Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police, Illinois State Police Crime Scene services, Kane County Bomb Squad and the FBI all responded to the area of the river bank near Route 178.

The initial report at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday was there had been an explosion along the Illinois River bank, bringing out several responding agencies to the Starved Rock State Park boat launch. The incident is said to have occurred southwest of Route 178, which is the state park’s western boundary.

The incident remains under investigation. State police issued a press release Friday saying this is an isolated incident and there is no concern for public safety at this time. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the state police Division of Criminal Investigation Zone 3 at 815-726-6377.

Utica Fire and EMS along with Conservation Police, the La Salle County Sheriff's Office, and several other agencies, responded to the boat ramp at Starved Rock State Park shortly before 7:30 p.m. on Thursday May 6, 2021, for what had been reported as an explosion.

Utica Fire and EMS along with Conservation Police, the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office, and several other agencies, responded to the boat ramp at Starved Rock State Park shortly before 7:30 p.m. on Thursday May 6, 2021, for what had been reported as an explosion. (Scott Anderson/)

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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