‘We Just Started Digging’: Witness Describes Minnehaha Academy Explosion, Rescue

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO)Two people are dead after an explosion caused part of Minnehaha Academy to collapse Wednesday morning. WCCO-TV is hearing dramatic stories from those who witnessed the incident and helped in the rescue.

Shortly after 10:30 a.m., a gas leak at the academy’s Upper School caused an explosion. Nine victims were also hospitalized.

Five of the nine patients were discharged, three are in satisfactory condition and one is still critical, according to Hennepin County Medical Center.

Minneapolis fire officials say no children were hurt in the incident.

Paul Meskan was nearby working on his yard when the explosion happened and he described the situation to WCCO’s Mary McGuire.

“It was just like a sonic boom for those that are old enough to know what that’s like. You could feel it … We looked across, and saw it and the kids were screaming, running on the field. I just ran and got there. A couple workers were saying, ‘There’s people, there’s people’ and some other citizens,” Meskan said. “We ran over and found a guy who was trapped and we just started digging. Minneapolis PD showed up and they helped digging. You could smell the gas and then the flames started, and it’s like, ‘We got to get this guy out of here.'”

Clearly emotional, Meskan said they were able to save one man, but couldn’t get to another victim.

“One of them said that there was a female that was right there, right by the wall, and I can only hope that it was fast. Because if there’s any comfort, that’s the one,” Meskan said.

GALLERY: Minnehaha Academy Explosion Aerials

Meskan went on to describe the first rescue.

“He was crushed. He wasn’t conscious but he was breathing,” he said. “We got a heartbeat and we got oxygen flowing. We got a chance. Everybody worked together and we got him out.”

Meskan then described the type of rubble and injuries he saw when he got there.

“It was all block work, nothing but concrete and cinder blocks … It was all crush injuries. But he had a heartbeat… oxygen flowing, so he had a chance,” he said.

Minneapolis police say contractors doing work on the building ruptured a gas line, causing the explosion.

Related: Community Responses To Minnehaha Academy Explosion

“They were doing construction work over there, but kids were over here with soccer. Soccer camps going all summer. A group out there today doing soccer. Fortunate it wasn’t a break time… usually when it’s break time they go for the shade,” Meskan said. “Somebody was up (there) looking out for at least most everybody. It’s tragedy all the way around. Fortunate school hasn’t started yet, because this could have been a lot worse.”

Meskan works as a Ramsey County Sheriff’s Deputy and says he hasn’t seen anything like it.

“Nothing like that. To be right there when it happened and feel it and see the debris, the windows flying through the air, and then just taking off and running, and getting there and people, ‘We need help, let’s go,'” he said.

Related: ‘Knocked Me Off My Feet’: Soccer Player On Minnehaha Academy Explosion

Meskan said despite the dangerous situation due to the gas leak, people still helped to rescue victims.

“There was other people saying, ‘You have to get out of there, there’s gas,’ and I was like, ‘We can’t leave somebody.’ We got a chance to get them out. Let’s get them out. Everybody worked together and we got them out,” he said.

“Somebody was looking out for, at least, most everybody. It’s a tragedy all the way around,” Meskan said.

Minnehaha Academy is a private Christian school for students in preschool through 12th grade, and is located on 3100 W River Parkway.

More from Mary McGuire
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