Explosion in Canton, Illinois has ground downtown business to a halt

CANTON, IL (KTVI) – Business in Canton, Illinois has come to a standstill in its downtown square after an explosion killed one man and injured man others.

Canton is about 160 miles north of St. Louis.

Few people will ever forget the sound of the blast.

“It was like, ‘bam,’ the kids outside the house playing went running down to their home. They were kind of scared,” said resident Kathy Wilson.

The explosion happened around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and turned the downtown square into what looks like a war zone.

Geovani Soto rushed downtown after he heard he boom.

“We went to where the square was and just glass broken everywhere, people crying and everything,” he said.

An Ameren Illinois employee was killed and 11 other people were hurt, three of them were admitted to the hospital. The utility is asking for prayers for the worker who was killed.

“The utility industry is a very close family, particularly here in Canton,” said Craig Gilson, an Ameren Illinois spokesperson.

Gilson said it all began when another company installing fiber cable apparently dug into a gas line. Ameren arrived on the scene and cut the flow but then blast happened.

Katy Tinsman’s husband was coming home from work.

“He dove into his car and covered his head because he thought the building he was in was collapsing,” she said.

Exactly 48 of the damaged buildings need a few repairs and are habitable, 2 need extensive repairs, and 1 is a total loss. It comes at the worst time of the year.

“With the holiday season coming up, Black Friday is only a week away, Small Business Saturday, those are all things that will be affected with this,” said Canton Mayor Jeff Fritz.

The mayor and citizens said the town will come back in recent history the downtown survived a tornado and a huge fire.

“It’s horrible that a life was lost and injuries but as far as the businesses the people in town it will be cleaned up in no time,” said resident Scott Strode.

That resilient attitude is common in this community. Officials still don’t know what touched off the explosion.