Boiler Explodes, Employees Get Day Off

Cars, restaurant damaged by falling debris

A malfunctioning boiler in a River North building is believed to have caused an explosion and subsequent falling debris from the building's chimney Wednesday morning.

The debris damaged cars below and crashed into the kitchen of Club Lago, a River North staple since 1952.

Owner Guido Nardini rushed to the scene to find a hole in his roof and bricks in his kitchen.

"I see where we cook a lot of food for River North on a daily basis covered with rubble and dust," Nardini said.

Nardini vowed to reopen the restaurant as soon as possible.

"A chimney can't close us down," Nardini said.

The blast also set off the sprinkler system in the office building below. The soggy and unstable situation meant employees got an unscheduled day off.

"It smelled like a wet dog," one employee said.

When the office will reopen is unclear.

An viewer reported hearing something that sounded like a bomb exploding.

Maralyn Owen said she looked out the window and saw smoke billowing from a large chimney before she went outside and saw that the top of the chimney had "blown off during the explosion" and many cars below were damaged.

Owen said she and her dog had just walked by the area minutes before the incident and "were lucky it didn't happen as we walked by. We would have been killed for sure."

Inspectors sent to the scene shortly after the incident preliminarily determined a malfunctioning boiler prompted a buildup in the chimney which ultimately led to an explosion, according to the city’s Dept. of Buildings spokesman Bill McCaffrey.

“There was an explosion and that caused the debris to fly up in the air,” McCaffrey said.

A People's Energy spokeswoman said the debris may have come from a chimney collapse due to the malfunctioning boiler, but the incident was not natural gas related and the building itself did not collapse.

No injuries were reported and there was no fire at the location, Knight said.

North Orleans and West Superior streets were closed near the site and one CTA bus, the No. 11, had been rerouted around the scene following the incident.

The incident remained under investigation Wednesday afternoon, according to McCaffrey, who said the owner of the building will be written up for building violations for improper maintenance of a boiler. The owner will appear at a hearing at a later date, he said.

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