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Two Killed in Apartment House Explosion

September 20, 1988

CHICAGO (AP) _ An explosion and fire ripped through an apartment building Monday, killing the owner and another man and injuring four others, authorities said.

The owner, identified later as Jeremy Conn, 56, was tinkering with a furnace or making some repairs when the blast hit, Fire Department spokesman Tom Sheppard said.

The body of another victim, Marvin Handler, 41, was found wrapped in bedclothes, indicating he was a resident and asleep when the blast took place, said Frank Szwedo, another Fire Department spokesman.

Two men believed to have been working with the owner were critically injured, and authorities were not immediately able to get much information from them.

The explosion may have been caused by natural gas that was building up when water in the basement snuffed a pilot light in an appliance, Sheppard said.

At least three apartments were destroyed in the three-story building, Sheppard said.

Melvin Davis, 32, and Ronald Walker, 42, both of Evanston, were taken to St. Francis and then transferred in critical condition to Cook County Hospital’s burn unit, said Debbie Longstreet, a St. Francis spokeswoman. Two women were treated for cuts.

Ed Joyce, a spokesman for Peoples Gas, said the utility shut off gas to the building after the fire was reported, but crews found no leaks and firefighters reported no scent of gas.

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