Partial building collapse, explosion reported at Minneapolis pri - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATE: 2 missing after explosion, collapse at Minneapolis school

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By AMY FORLITI and JEFF BAENEN
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Two people were unaccounted for after a natural gas explosion caused part of a building to collapse on Wednesday at a college prep school in Minneapolis, authorities said.

Seven adults were hospitalized, including three with critical injuries, following the blast at Minnehaha Academy, a private Christian school serving students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, according to the Minneapolis Fire Department and a local hospital.

All of the school's students and staff on campus for summer programs "are accounted for and safe," the school said in a Facebook post. Contractors were doing work on the building at the time of the blast, which investigators determined was caused by a gas explosion, according to Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner.

Details about the two missing individuals haven't been released. The people transported to Hennepin County Medical Center suffered injuries ranging from head injuries and broken bones to cuts from debris, according to Dr. Jim Miner, the hospital's chief of emergency medicine.

Aerial video footage of the school's campus showed part of a building crumbled, windows in other areas blown out and shattered, and bricks and other debris scattered about. Tyner said three people were rescued from the roof of the building shortly after the explosion.

Tyner said crews extinguished a fire in the building and cleared all the areas that remained standing. He said crews were assessing the structural integrity of the building and determining how to search the rubble for two missing people who may be trapped inside.

"We don't know that those people are actually in the rubble or in the building," he said. "They could still be walking around out here somewhere."

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. Ryan Larsen, a company official, released a statement saying the company was monitoring the situation and referred all questions to the Minneapolis Fire Department.

Larsen wouldn't confirm to The Associated Press that company workers were on site, saying: "We are trying to figure it out."

Minnehaha Academy has multiple buildings on its campus. The school said the blast only affected the "upper school," and that all of the students in the building's gym at the time of the blast were OK.

Tramon Vanleer, who helps coach a summer program, was in the gym with five students when the explosion occurred.

"It sounded like a freight door shutting," Vanleer told the Minneapolis television station. "At the same time the lights went out and there was some debris that fell from the ceiling, so we just got out as fast as possible."

Gov. Mark Dayton released a statement saying his office was in contact with city officials and the state "will provide any and all resources necessary" to help first responders and ensure everyone is safe.

The Minneapolis Fire Department initially tweeted that one fatality was reported, but Tyner later said that hadn't been confirmed and fire officials were backing off that statement.

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Associated Press writer Gretchen Ehlke contributed to this report from Milwaukee.

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