A woman is dead, a man is missing and seven are in the hospital after an explosion caused a school building to collapse in Minneapolis today, the Minneapolis Police Department said.
The explosion set the building at Minnehaha Academy on fire and the flames were further fed by a ruptured gas line, according to police. The fire has since been put out, police 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.
Fire Chief John Fruetel said this afternoon that the fatality and the unaccounted person are staff members. “I’m not ready to determine that this is a recovery yet,” he said. “Still considering this a possible rescue.”
The chief added that the building sustained “heavy, heavy damaged” and said the front walls were blown out and the roof collapsed.
In a Facebook post, Minnehaha Academy identified the victim as Ruth Berg, a receptionist who worked for the school for 17 years.
“[S]he welcomed everyone with a smile and was always willing to go the extra mile to help our students, families, and staff,” the school said. “She will be greatly missed.”
Meanwhile, the missing man was identified by the school as John Carlson.
The hospital said this afternoon 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.
Authorities 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 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.
“It was a large, huge, ‘boom,'” he told KSTP. “One of those movie scenes where you kind of start shaking and it knocks you off your feet. It was pretty intense.”
“Stuff started falling out of the ceiling. Kind of rocked my daughter and she fell back into the building,” he told KSTP. “From there, people were in panic. We heard a lot of screaming,” and the glass blew out in the office, he said.
They exited the building out a back door, and that’s when he saw how severe this was, he told KSTP. 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.
He said his wife and daughter were scratched up a little bit, but were otherwise OK.
“We’re blessed,” he said. “This could’ve been a lot worse.”
— Ellen Galles (@EGallesKSTP) August 2, 2017
Officials said two floors collapsed over a subbasement currently filled with water they used to extinguish the fire.
Crews need to get into the rubble to locate missing person, officials said this afternoon, adding that this is still considered a rescue mission.
One girl told reporters she was at school for cross country practice this 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.”
A neighbor told KSTP the explosion was “the loudest thing [I] ever heard in my entire life.”
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement, “The State will provide any and all resources necessary to aid first responders.”
— Governor Mark Dayton (@GovMarkDayton) August 2, 2017