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Gas Blast in St. Paul Slams Neighborhood

July 23, 1993|From Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Two people were killed Thursday when a natural gas explosion blasted a car across a street, turned two buildings into charred rubble and shattered windows of nearby homes in a working-class neighborhood on the eastern edge of downtown.

The car's driver was pronounced dead at the scene, and a woman who suffered burns on 95% of her body died later at a hospital. Seven other people were hospitalized, two of them in critical condition.

James H. Willson, a Northern States Power Co. official, said a city sewer maintenance crew may have struck the gas line with a backhoe, but the city's public works director, Tom Eggum, said he could not confirm that.

A two-story building housing a grocery store, bookstore and upstairs apartments was destroyed by the blast and fire. Throughout the day, firefighters battled a blaze in a neighboring building that housed a bar and more apartments.

Regina Larson said she was feeding her 4-year-old son breakfast a half block away when she heard a boom and glass shattered in her kitchen. She ran outside, saw the grocery store on fire and a hand moving feebly in the rubble.

Aaron Johnson, a city parks and recreation worker, was sitting in his truck when "the whole place blew up. It's like, all the people were there, and they're gone. The building was gone."

Johnson said the motorist's car was in the intersection when the explosion hit.

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