Two staff members found dead after school building collapses in Minneapolis
iStock/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) — Two staff members were killed and multiple others were hospitalized on Wednesday after an explosion caused a school building to collapse in Minneapolis, officials said.
The Minneapolis Fire Department confirmed the explosion was caused by a gas leak and said contractors were doing construction on the gas lines at the time of the explosion. The Fire Department also confirmed that it had recovered two bodies in the wreckage, but it did not disclose their identities.
“At this point right now, we’re shutting down operations for the night,” Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel told reporters after the second body was recovered from the rubble late Wednesday. “The investigative phase will continue tomorrow.”
He said the victim’s family members were being notified.
Minnehaha Academy, however, identified both victims. In a Facebook post, the school named the first as Ruth Berg, a receptionist who worked for the school for 17 years.
Berg “welcomed everyone with a smile and was always willing to go the extra mile to help our students, families and staff,” the post stated. “She will be greatly missed.”
The school identified the second victim as John Carlson, a staff member and alum.
“He graduated from Minnehaha in 1953, sent his children here, and after retiring from his first career, he came back to work at the school,” according to the Facebook post. “John will be deeply missed.”
The hospital said Wednesday afternoon that it is treating four patients: one person in critical condition and three in satisfactory conditions. Five others have already been discharged.
Injuries include broken bones, lacerations and head wounds, officials added.
Officials said the building sustained “heavy, heavy damage” and said the front walls were blown out and the roof collapsed. They added that it was fortunate that this incident did not occur during the school year while students were in class.
One father told ABC affiliate KSTP-TV that he was in the school counselor’s office ahead of the incident with his daughter and wife. He said someone came into the office and told them there was a gas smell and everyone needed to get out.
His daughter got up to start exiting through the hallway, and “just seconds after that” was “a huge explosion,” he told KSTP-TV. “It was a large, huge, ‘boom.’ One of those movie scenes where you kind of start shaking and it knocks you off your feet. It was pretty intense.
“From there, people were in panic. We heard a lot of screaming.”
They exited the building out a back door, and that’s when he said he saw how severe it was. He called this a close-knit community and said he ran back in to try to find anyone hurt. Some parts of the building were completely blocked by debris, he said.
His wife and daughter were scratched up a little bit but otherwise OK, he said.
“We’re blessed,” he said. “This could’ve been a lot worse.”
Officials said two floors collapsed over a sub-basement currently filled with water they used to extinguish the fire.
Crews need to get into the rubble to locate missing persons, officials said Wednesday afternoon, adding that this is still considered a rescue mission.
One girl told reporters she was at school for cross-country practice Wednesday morning; 30 seconds after she left the building, she was in the parking lot when the explosion occurred, she said.
A “huge cloud of dust” came and the windows shattered, she told reporters. “It shook all my insides.”
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement, “The state will provide any and all resources necessary to aid first responders.”
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