House explosion, armed robbery rock small town of Marengo in the same day

MARENGO, Ill. -- The small town of Marengo has been hit hard over the past 24 hours; a gas leak likely caused a home to explode there in the early morning hours, and later a pair of armed suspects robbed a pharmacy before holing up in a house there.

A gas leak likely caused a home to explode before 5 a.m. Sunday, but luckily neighbors say the owners were on vacation. Dozens of homes nearby were damaged by the blast that was heard for miles around.

"It was very scary at 4:55 this morning - there was a big boom," said Debbie Hamiliton, who lives nearby.

About the only thing left of that home is part of the wall stuck in a tree. The blast blew out windows and walls, and ignited nearby homes.  Neighbors rushed in to help a family of four trapped in their house that caught fire.

"All the neighbors grabbed a couple ladders, [and] got the people down," neighbor Steve Hamilton said.

Shockingly, only two people were taken to the hospital with minor burns. Firefighters say at least 50 homes were damaged, two were destroyed, and 12 to 18 are unlivable.

"Looking at this it appears as if a bomb went off... and basically that's what happened; it was a gas explosion," said Marengo Fire Protection District Chief Bob Bradbury.

Meanwhile, about one mile away officers from multiple agencies in full tactical gear surrounded a home Sunday afternoon. Inside were a man and woman wanted for robbing a pharmacy. Illinois police say the man had a shotgun. They had picked the wrong day for a robbery - police from the area had already converged on the town to help with the aftermath of the house explosion.

The stand-off ended peacefully after a couple of hours when the two surrendered.

It's a lot to happen in just one day.

"Things happen in small towns - but nothing like this happens," said Marengo resident Teresa Jones.

It was a crazy day that started with a bang, and ended with a stand-off. All day long neighbors have been helping neighbors not only save what they can, but pray the list of unlivable homes doesn't grow. Police are trying to get people into their homes as quickly as they can, and the Red Cross came into town to help out as well.

"It's been a crazy day in Marengo," resident KC Ehle said.

One point of good news for Marengo tonight: the high school girls' softball team won the state title Saturday night.