Most medical students don’t put their life-saving instincts to the test the first day of medical school, but that’s exactly what happened to new Carle Illinois College of Medicine student Vignesh Alla when an explosion rocked his dormitory.

After completing his first day of orientation June 28, 2021, as a new student at Carle Illinois, Alla returned to his residence in Hendrick House, only to learn that the building’s maintenance staff was investigating a possible natural gas leak.

He helped pinpoint the area where the natural gas smell was coming from and returned to his room just before an explosion rocked the building. “The whole building rattled, shook, I got knocked off my balance, and then the fire alarm started going off.”

Alla, who had previously served as a resident assistant in the privately owned dormitory, acted immediately to help others. “My RA training kicked in, I stepped out and made sure to yell down my floor to please leave, to let them know this wasn’t a drill. I tried to get as many people on my floor out quickly as I possibly could.”

Alla said he’s thankful no one hurt and that he could help. “I just did the right thing,” Alla said.

Vignesh Alla with Alma Mater

Alla is one of 47 members of Carle Illinois’ class of 2025 participating in Orientation Week activities June 28 through July 2, 2021.

Emergency crews were on the scene until late Monday night of an explosion in the 900 block of West Green Street. Information sent from the University of Illinois Illini-Alert system says the explosion occurred at Hendrick House, 904 West Green in Urbana. People were encouraged to avoid the area until Tuesday at 1:06 a.m. when the university said it was “safe to resume regular activities.

According to a statement from Hendrick House, all students were accounted for, with no injuries. All residents were relocated to other housing until the building can be repopulated.