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SUV Crashes Into North Suburban Townhome, Sparking Huge Fire

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Firefighters at the scene of a town home fire in Lake County. (Credit: Susanna Song)

Firefighters at the scene of a town home fire in Lake County. (Credit: Susanna Song)

Updated 10/25/13 – 11:02 a.m.

HAINESVILLE, Ill. (CBS) – An SUV crashed into a townhome in far north suburban Hainesville early Friday, causing an explosion and large fire.

The SUV was heading south on Hainvesille Road, when driver lost control, veered off the road, and plowed into a townhouse, near Patriot Drive, around 4:15 a.m.

The Jeep hit a gas meter at the building, and ruptured a gas line, causing an explosion that engulfed the building in heavy flames. The driver fled the scene, but was later arrested.

“The impact was really, really bad. It was very loud and it shook our house, and so I knew that something crashed into our house,” said occupant Lieka Racho, who made a frantic call to 9-1-1.

Flames spread to both floors of the building, and shot through the roof.

The homeowner’s father said his daughter and three grandchildren were sleeping when the SUV hit the townhome.

“A big crash, and then it was smoking already, and then what happened is that she called up right away, the 911,” Noy Dirizula said.

Seconds after they got out, flames engulfed their townhouse.

Police said the house was already on fire when they arrived less than a minute later. The family got out just in time.

Grayslake Police Chief Phil Perlini said the family was “very lucky.”

“They were on their way out when officers came,” he said.

The driver ran away from the scene, but a neighbor found him about 2 1/2 hours later, hiding under their truck. When police arrived, the man ran away, and was found 10 to 15 minutes later, in a pond in a marshy area near a Walgreens store, according to Perlini. He was taken to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia, and likely would face charges.

“That’s very surreal to hear that, you know, that someone was actually there and just took off. I’m just glad that everybody’s safe. I don’t have a home, but we are all safe,” Racho said.

Police said the driver was speeding, but would not say if alcohol or drugs were also involved. The SUV was registered to a woman from kenosha.

Libertyville Fire Chief Rich Carani said the vehicle hit the northwest corner of the townhome, and smashed through a gas meter. The SUV ruptured a gas line. It didn’t take long after the crash before flames destroyed the car and house.

Dirizula’s daughter and three grandkids lost everything in the blaze.

Neighbors said everyone who lives in the townhome complex was evacuated, because of the heavy flames.

Anthony Guerra, whose family lives on the opposite end of the complex, said police evacuated all the homes right away, due to the intense flames.

“The entire roof was engulfed in flames. It was crazy,” he said. “Very scary; I mean, I’m thankful that my wife was quick to wake up, and get us all up. I’m thankful that the first responders were on the scene as fast as they were, going door-to-door, making sure everybody was getting out of their houses.”

The roof of the townhome collapsed, and the building was gutted in the fire, but no injuries were reported.