The massive gas blast and the huge fire that ignited in its aftermath destroyed almost a complete building in one of the best private schools in Minneapolis. It took many hours to douse the fire and retrieve the injured and the bodies of two people who died.
Initially there was confusion about the casualties and the number of injured. Given the fact that this is a big school with a large campus, there were apprehensions of casualties to be much higher.
Authorities said that had the incident happened when the school was in session with full strength of kids, the loss of lives would have been huge.
In the meantime, the death of two people has been confirmed in the tragedy. One of the victims is in forties, while the other one who lost his life was an octogenarian. Apparently, the search for the missing people began, only when the fire was doused. Earlier it was impossible to do so. First it was the body of a 47-year-old receptionist, Ruth Berg that was pulled from the debris. Later, the body of 82-year old John Carlson, the beloved janitor known for handing out ice cream bars to students was discovered.
While announcing the gas explosion that caused the havoc in the school, a message posted on the school’s facebook page said “all of our Summer Program students and staff are accounted for and safe.” The Minneapolis Fire Department initially tweeted that one fatality was reported, but authorities haven’t been able to confirm that report, and Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said they are backing off that statement.
The Christian school, Minnehaha Academy, is one of the best in the area. The Minnehaha Academy educational program, which begins at the Lower School in preschool and goes through the Upper School in 12th grade, sends many students on to both Minnesota-based colleges and universities and many out-of-state schools. At M.A., class sizes generally range from 18-24 students. 85% of Upper School faculty members hold advanced degrees, 66% among Middle School faculty and 55% among Lower School faculty.
Reports suggest that Berg and Carlson were recovered from the same general area, near an exterior door, Fruetel said, but one of the bodies was found deeper in the rubble than the other.
Assistant Minneapolis Fire Chief Bryan Tyner reportedly told Associated Press that at the time of the blast, contractors were working on one of the campus buildings. Those inside the building learned there was a natural gas leak and began evacuating. Fire officials confirmed reports of the gas leak, but said the cause of the explosion was still under investigation.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges in a press conference said, “This is a day of extraordinary heartbreak in Minneapolis…The school is at the heart of a neighborhood and at the heart of a community.”