At Least One Dead, Nine Hurt in Minneapolis School Explosion

August 2, 2017 Updated: August 2, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS—At least one person was killed and nine others injured on Wednesday after a gas explosion ripped through a Christian private school in Minneapolis, starting a fire and causing a building to collapse, authorities said.

A school employee was missing more than six hours after the 10:20 a.m. CDT blast at Minnehaha Academy, Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel told a news conference, and crews were searching the rubble in the hope of finding that person alive.

“We still consider it a rescue at this point,” Fruetel said, adding that the situation was “precarious” with two floors of unstable debris that could still collapse during the search.

Fruetel declined to identify the person who was killed, but the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that it was Ruth Berg, a 47-year-old receptionist at the school who was engaged to be married.

Family members told local news channel KARE that John Carlson, an 81-year-old custodian, was still missing and that no one had been able to reach him.

Emergency personnel work at the scene of school building collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Aug. 2, 2017. (REUTERS/Adam Bettcher)
Emergency personnel work at the scene of school building collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Aug. 2, 2017. (REUTERS/Adam Bettcher)

The nine people who were injured were taken to local hospitals, and one was in critical condition, Fruetel said.

Authorities said there were early indications that a ruptured gas line may have led to the explosion and that it was caused by contractors working at the school. The academy confirmed on Facebook that there had been a gas leak and explosion at its Upper School.

“This is a day of extraordinary heartbreak in Minneapolis,” Mayor Betsy Hodges told the news conference.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said on Twitter that its agents, fire investigators and trained canines were at the site of the explosion.

Damage to the building is seen as emergency personnel work the scene of school building collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Aug. 2, 2017. (REUTERS/Adam Bettcher)
Damage to the building is seen as emergency personnel work the scene of school building collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Aug. 2, 2017. (REUTERS/Adam Bettcher)

Phillip Day, 41, said that he, his wife and their 17-year-old daughter, Chimali, had been at the school meeting with a counselor to discuss college options when the explosion occurred.

Day said that as they left a conference room, his daughter was blown back through the door by the force of the blast and his wife was scraped.

Tramon Van Leer, 33, was in the gym at the Minnehaha Academy playing basketball with his stepdaughter and four other girls when they heard the blast.

After they ran outside to safety, Van Leer said he looked back and, “Wow, the whole section of the school is gone.”

According to its website Minnehaha Academy, which was founded in 1913, teaches more than 800 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade on two campuses.

By Todd Melby

Smoke hangs in the air as emergency personnel work the scene of school building collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., August 2, 2017.  REUTERS/Adam Bettcher
Smoke hangs in the air as emergency personnel work the scene of school building collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., August 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adam Bettcher

Smoke hangs in the air as emergency personnel work the scene of school building collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., August 2, 2017.  REUTERS/Adam Bettcher
Smoke hangs in the air as emergency personnel work the scene of school building collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., August 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adam Bettcher

Emergency personnel work at the scene of school building collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., August 2, 2017.  REUTERS/Adam Bettcher
Emergency personnel work at the scene of school building collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., August 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adam Bettcher

Police stand next to a cordon outside the Minnehaha Academy, after part of the Christian private school collapsed, in Minneapolis, United States August 2, 2017 in this image obtained from social media.  Adam Carter/WCCO RADIO/via REUTERS
Police stand next to a cordon outside the Minnehaha Academy, after part of the Christian private school collapsed, in Minneapolis, United States August 2, 2017 in this image obtained from social media. Adam Carter/WCCO RADIO/via REUTERS

Emergency personnel put water on the scene of school building explosion and collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., August 2, 2017.  REUTERS/Adam Bettcher
Emergency personnel put water on the scene of school building explosion and collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., August 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adam Bettcher

Emergency vehicles attend the scene outside the Minnehaha Academy, after part of the Christian private school collapsed, in Minneapolis, United States August 2, 2017 in this image obtained from social media.  Syd Davenport-Fey/via REUTERS
Emergency vehicles attend the scene outside the Minnehaha Academy, after part of the Christian private school collapsed, in Minneapolis, United States August 2, 2017 in this image obtained from social media. Syd Davenport-Fey/via REUTERS

Emergency vehicles attend the scene outside the Minnehaha Academy, after part of the Christian private school collapsed, in Minneapolis, United States August 2, 2017 in this image obtained from social media.  Steven Appelget/via REUTERS
Emergency vehicles attend the scene outside the Minnehaha Academy, after part of the Christian private school collapsed, in Minneapolis, United States August 2, 2017 in this image obtained from social media. Steven Appelget/via REUTERS

Emergency vehicles attend the scene outside the Minnehaha Academy, after part of the Christian private school collapsed, in Minneapolis.  Syd Davenport-Fey/via REUTERS
Emergency vehicles attend the scene outside the Minnehaha Academy, after part of the Christian private school collapsed, in Minneapolis. Syd Davenport-Fey/via REUTERS

Emergency vehicles attend the scene outside the Minnehaha Academy, after part of the Christian private school collapsed, in Minneapolis.  Syd Davenport-Fey/via REUTERS
Emergency vehicles attend the scene outside the Minnehaha Academy, after part of the Christian private school collapsed, in Minneapolis. Syd Davenport-Fey/via REUTERS

Emergency vehicles attend the scene outside the Minnehaha Academy, after part of the Christian private school collapsed, in Minneapolis, United States August 2, 2017 in this image obtained from social media.  Steven Appelget/via REUTERS
Emergency vehicles attend the scene outside the Minnehaha Academy, after part of the Christian private school collapsed, in Minneapolis, United States August 2, 2017 in this image obtained from social media. Steven Appelget/via REUTERS