NTSB in­ves­ti­gates blast that killed 2 peo­ple at school

Ex­plo­sion hap­pened in util­ity area, say of­fi­cials

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY AMY FORLITI AND JEFF BAENEN

MIN­NEAPO­LIS | In­ves­ti­ga­tors from the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board were sent to a Min­neapo­lis school Thurs­day to look into an ap­par­ent nat­u­ral gas ex­plo­sion and par­tial build­ing col­lapse that killed two peo­ple and injured at least nine, in­clud­ing one crit­i­cally.

The ex­plo­sion at Min­nehaha Academy re­duced part of a build­ing on its up­per school cam­pus to rub­ble.

City fire of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day’s col­lapse was caused by a nat­u­ral gas ex­plo­sion. Con­trac­tors were work­ing in the school at the time, and some wit­nesses said they were warned of a gas leak mo­ments be­fore the blast.

Some first re­spon­ders also re­ported smelling nat­u­ral gas as they pulled peo­ple to safety.

The blast oc­curred in a util­ity area as stu­dents were play­ing soc­cer and bas­ket­ball at school, ac­cord­ing to fire and school of­fi­cials. NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said the agency is in­ves­ti­gat­ing be­cause it has ju­ris­dic­tion over gas pipe­lines.

Min­neapo­lis Fire Chief John Frue­tel said two bod­ies were pulled Wed­nes­day from the rub­ble.

While of­fi­cials have not for­mally iden­ti­fied them, Min­nehaha Academy, said on its Face­book page that the vic­tims were Ruth Berg, a re­cep­tion­ist for 17 years at the school who “wel­comed every­one with a smile,” and John Carl­son, a part-time jan­i­tor known for giv­ing Dilly Bars to stu­dents.

Mr. Carl­son, 81, at­tended the school as a child, sent his own chil­dren there, and was like a grand­fa­ther fig­ure to stu­dents, school of­fi­cials said. Ms. Berg was en­gaged to be mar­ried.

Three peo­ple re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized Thurs­day, in­clud­ing one in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, ac­cord­ing to Hen­nepin County Med­i­cal Center. Six other pa­tients who were brought to the hos­pi­tal af­ter Wed­nes­day’s blast have been re­leased. Dr. Jim Miner, the hos­pi­tal’s chief of emer­gency medicine, said vic­tims suf­fered in­juries rang­ing from head in­juries and bro­ken bones to cuts from de­bris.

Min­nehaha Academy is a pri­vate, Chris­tian school that serves stu­dents from pre-kinder­garten through 12th grades. The ex­plo­sion af­fected only the up­per school; the lower and mid­dle school cam­pus is about a mile and a half away.

Aerial video footage of the school’s cam­pus showed part of a build­ing was ripped apart, with wood splin­tered and bricks scat­tered about. Win­dows in other ar­eas were blown out and shat­tered. Three peo­ple were res­cued from the build­ing’s roof shortly af­ter the ex­plo­sion and fire, Chief Frue­tel said.

The Star Tri­bune re­ported that city records show Master Me­chan­i­cal Inc. was is­sued a per­mit on June 7 for “gas pip­ing and hook­ing up me­ter” at the school’s ad­dress.

Master Me­chan­i­cal said in a state­ment Thurs­day that its em­ploy­ees were among the injured. The con­trac­tor did not say how many of its em­ploy­ees were hurt.

Master Me­chan­i­cal has twice been cited for work­place vi­o­la­tions in re­cent years, ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per. Jenny O’Brien, a spokes­woman for the Minnesota Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion, said in 2010 there was a vi­o­la­tion re­lated to pro­tect­ing an em­ployee from fall­ing. In 2014, the com­pany had pa­per­work vi­o­la­tions.

At the time the blast, as many as 10 stu­dents were play­ing bas­ket­ball in­side a gym at Min­nehaha Academy but weren’t near the ex­plo­sion, said Sara Ja­cob­son, the school’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of in­sti­tu­tional ad­vance­ment.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Two peo­ple died and at least nine were injured in an ex­plo­sion at Min­nehaha Academy on Wed­nes­day in Min­neapo­lis. Nat­u­ral gas caused the blast, said of­fi­cials.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.