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Woman injured by ‘fireballs’ in Burnside steel plant explosion sues company for damages

Olga Terry suffered “severe burns and injuries to her lungs” in the April 17, 2019 explosion at the Finkl Steel plant, according to the lawsuit.

A home in Burnside caught fire April 17, 2019, after burning debris went flying from a nearby steel plant.
A home in Burnside caught fire April 17, 2019, after burning debris went flying from a nearby steel plant.
Chicago Fire Dept.

A woman is suing a South Side steel plant for negligence, claiming she was permanently injured nearly a year ago after a slag pit explosion sent fireballs into the air, injuring her and severely damaging a nearby house.

The suit alleges the plaintiff Olga Terry suffered “severe burns and injuries to her lungs” by “burning debris” sent into the air by an explosion at Finkl Steel plant, 1355 E. 93rd St., in Burnside, according to the suit filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court.

The suit alleges Finkl Steel could’ve avoided the incident with proper safety training and precautions to keep moisture away from the slag — a byproduct of metal production — which ultimately triggered the April 17, 2019 explosion.

Neighbors saw “fireballs” fly through the air after an explosion at the plant, which sent flaming debris onto a house about a block away, fire officials said at the time.

Crews responded to the home in the 9100 block of South Woodlawn Avenue and extinguished the blaze that caused severe damage and displaced eight people, fire officials said.

After the explosion, Finkl Steel spokesman Brian Brown said the company was putting safeguards in place before dumping slag again.

The U.S. Department of Labor investigated the plant after the explosion but didn’t issue a citation, according to a department spokesperson.

Instead, the department sent a letter advising the company to voluntarily implement a procedure to keep water out of slag pits, and to train workers to report potential issues.

Terry is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.

Finkl Steel did not respond to messages seeking comment.