Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were sent to a Minneapolis school Thursday to look into an apparent natural gas explosion and partial building collapse that killed two people and injured at least nine, including one critically.

The explosion at Minnehaha Academy reduced part of a building on its upper school campus to rubble. City fire officials said Wednesday’s collapse was caused by a natural gas explosion. Contractors were working in the school at the time, and some witnesses said they were warned of a gas leak moments before the blast.

Some first responders also reported smelling natural gas as they pulled people to safety.

The blast occurred in a utility area as students were playing soccer and basketball at school, according to fire and school officials. NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said the agency is investigating because it has jurisdiction over gas pipelines.

Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said two bodies were pulled from the rubble on Wednesday. While officials have not formally identified them, Minnehaha Academy, said on its Facebook page that the victims were Ruth Berg, a receptionist for 17 years at the school who “welcomed everyone with a smile,” and John Carlson, a part-time janitor known for giving Dilly Bars to students.

Carlson, 81, attended the school as a child, sent his own children there, and was like a grandfather figure to students, school officials said. Berg was engaged to be married.

Three people remained hospitalized Thursday, including one in critical condition, according to Hennepin County Medical Center. Six other patients who were brought to the hospital after Wednesday’s blast have been released. Dr. Jim Miner, the hospital’s chief of emergency medicine, said victims suffered injuries ranging from head injuries and broken bones to cuts from debris.

Minnehaha Academy is a private, Christian school that serves students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grades. The explosion affected only the upper school; the lower and middle school campus is about a mile and a half away. Aerial video footage of the school’s campus showed part of a building was ripped apart, with wood splintered and bricks scattered about. Windows in other areas were blown out and shattered. Three people were rescued from the building’s roof shortly after the explosion and fire, Tyner said. (AP)

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Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

Emergency workers respond to an explosion at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Aug. 2, 2017. Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said it appears the explosion may have been caused by a ruptured gas line, but that the investigation is ongoing. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

Emergency personnel put water on the scene of school building collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2, 2017. (Adam Bettcher/Reuters)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

Multiple people are reportedly trapped underneath a collapsed building that may have been caused by a blast at a Minneapolis school. (WCCO 4 News)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

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

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

School president Donna Harris hugs ninth-grader Alexis Stanley as she arrives at a prayer service at the Minnehaha Academy Lower School on Aug. 2, 2017, in Minneapolis, Minn. Firefighters were searching for a man believed to be buried in the rubble of the collapsed school building in Minneapolis on Wednesday after an explosion killed another school employee and injured several others. (Renee Jones Schneider /Star Tribune via AP)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

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

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

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

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion caused by gas leak

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion caused by gas leak (ABC News)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

A Minneapolis police officer puts up police tape following an explosion at Minnehaha Academy, Aug. 2, 2017, in Minneapolis. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

Former Minnehaha Academy employees Elizabeth Van Pilsum, center, is comforted by friends Edie Olson, right, and Rick Olson, left, after an explosion at Minnehaha Academy Aug. 2, 2017, in Minneapolis. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

A Minneapolis police officer puts up police tape following an explosion at Minnehaha Academy, Aug. 2, 2017, in Minneapolis. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

Emergency personnel move away as a gas fire continues to burn following an explosion at Minnehaha Academy Aug. 2, 2017, in Minneapolis. Several people are unaccounted for after an explosion and partial building collapse Wednesday at a Minneapolis school, fire officials said. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

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

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

Former Minnehaha Academy employees Elizabeth Van Pilsum, left, and Rick Olson, center, react after an explosion at the school Aug. 2, 2017, in Minneapolis. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

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)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

Fire crews responded to the school in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis on August 2, 2017. (WCCO 4 News)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

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)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

People hug each other near the Minnehaha Academy after an explosion and building collapse at the school in Minneapolis, Minn., on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. The private Christian college prep school serves students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)

Minneapolis school building collapses after explosion

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

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