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3 killed after apparently igniting black powder near Starved Rock State Park

Two of the men may be from the Chicago area, according to the coroner’s office.

Starved Rock State Park’s southern entrance. | Photo from Starved Rock State Park’s online gallery. Photo from Starved Rock State Park’s online gallery.

Three men who had been fishing along the Illinois River near Starved Rock State Park died after apparently igniting an explosive powder.

The men — two of whom may be from the Chicago area — were found around 7 p.m. Thursday about 100 yards west of the Route 178 bridge in Utica, authorities said.

They appeared to have been relaxing along the river, fishing, before igniting black powder that was in a hole, LaSalle County Coroner Rich Ploch said. There was no device, though black powder was the original gunpowder and can be used to make fireworks.

No foul play was suspected, he said.

It wasn’t clear why they lit the powder, but the coroner’s office had two theories. They either lit the powder for entertainment or, what seemed more likely, they were trying to light a fire to cook food that was found nearby, Ploch said.

The men suffered “pretty extensive injuries,” Ploch said, adding that autopsies were planned. Their names were not expected to be released until the middle of next week, he said.

The explosion occurred about 75 miles southwest of Chicago.

Contributing: Associated Press