An unusual explosion during a training exercise injured two Oglesby firefighters and an Oglesby emergency medical technician Wednesday evening.

The Oglesby fire and ambulance water rescue team was at the Vermilion River, for training when, “there was a rupture in the inflatable rescue boat, causing a violent explosion,” said Ron Popurella, Oglesby fire chief.

The accident occurred around 7 p.m. at Oglesby’s canoe landing near the Ed Hand Highway bridge.

Popurella said the fire department has had its Zodiac rescue boat, a vessel made for four or five people, for about six years. He said he had never heard of one of the durable boats rupturing and exploding. He said the skin of the inflatable boat is of a thick PVC material.

“I saw it myself tonight,” said Popurella. “As of right now I don’t know what caused it.”

The chief said he was about 20 feet away at the time. The emergency crews were training on plucking victims out of the water into the boat or entering the water to rescue people.

One group of rescue personnel had completed some of the training and another group of firefighters and EMTs were preparing to take the boat out into on the river when the rupture occurred.

Popurella said the Oglesby department transported its three personnel to Illinois Valley Community Hospital, and all still were being treated or observed as of 10:15 p.m.

He did not release the names of the firefighters and EMT Wednesday night, as they still were at the hospital. This morning, he still did not release the names.

The chief said injuries were not life-threatening. He did not provide specific information, but said some of the various injuries are minor, “some a little worse than that,” some broken bones.

He said the department will investigate.

The department uses the boat frequently for rescues on the Vermilion River, and also helps neighboring departments on the Illinois River or any other waters as needed.

Craig Sterrett can be reached at (815) 220-6935 or ntlocal@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_NewsEditor.

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