Hampshire explosion: 1 dead, 1 injured in incident at building products manufacturer WR Meadows on Industrial Drive

HAMPSHIRE, Ill. (WLS) — Hampshire Fire District fire chief Trevor Herrmann said one person was killed and another seriously injured in a chemical explosion Friday morning at a building products manufacturer in Hampshire, a Kane County village.

The incident occurred at approximately 11:00 a.m. at WR MEADOWS, INC. on Industrial Drive, said Hampshire Village manager Jay Hedges.

Metal debris shredded on the ground as authorities searched the scene.

The explosion was so loud it was heard by neighbors nearly a mile away.

“The whole foundation of the house just shook,” said Ed Martin, who lives in Hampshire. “I thought it was someone’s house. We looked around the neighborhood. That was your natural reaction. And I said to my son before he went to work: ‘I hope nothing happened here in the industrial area.’ “

Authorities said workers were cleaning a tank when a chemical explosion took place. The company manufactures asphalt and concrete building materials.

The worker killed was identified as 55-year-old Wuilmer Gavigia.

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“It’s very sad,” Martin said. “I’ve lived here for 19 years and nothing like this has ever happened.”

This isn’t the first time authorities have been brought into this factory. ABC7 has learned that the company has been cited by OSHA at least twice in the past five years.

According to documents, an employee was cleaning a Teflon slide roller in 2017 when he was pulled into the machine, breaking his arm and suffering third-degree burns.

In 2019, another employee was cleaning the top of a tank and fell about 3 meters, injuring his head.

A further investigation is now underway as neighbors support those affected by the blast.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with you. It’s very, very sad,” Martin said.

Gavigia’s body will be autopsied on Monday. The cause of the explosion is under investigation.

Hampshire is about 50 miles west of Chicago in Kane County.

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