Inside the Blast: Workers Describe Minnehaha Explosion

Minnehaha Academy
Image Credit: Preya Samsundar/Alpha News

UPDATE 09:50 a.m. — At 8:00 p.m. Wednesday evening, Minneapolis Fire recovered the body of John Carson, 81, as they cleared rubble from the explosion that rocked Minnehaha Academy.

The school offered this statement via Facebook as soon as word broke:

“Minnehaha Academy is deeply saddened by today’s events. Tonight we report that we have lost alum and staff member John Carlson. John Carlson was Minnehaha’s biggest cheerleader and a long-time presence in the school. He graduated from Minnehaha in 1953, sent his children here, and after retiring from his first career he came back to work at the school. John will be deeply missed. Please keep John’s family, Ruth’s family, those who were injured, and our school community, in your prayers. Thank you to all of the emergency responders in their efforts, and thank you to the community that has shown such support throughout this tragic day.”


MINNEAPOLIS — “We have to thank God that this didn’t happen during the school year,” Officer Dean Milner, a first responder told members of the press. Milner described the initial scene as being reminiscent of the Oklahoma bombings.

The clock, a staple of Minnehaha Academy stands still at 11:35 a.m., an hour after authorities were dispatched to the private school where a gas leak is suspected to have caused the explosion that authorities believe blew out the front of the center building and caused the ceiling “to pancake” and crash to the ground.

Members of the community gathered to see what had happened, while others held hands and prayed for the safety of those inside.

The Minneapolis Fire Department initially confirmed a fatality, before backtracking. However, late this afternoon, Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel confirmed one fatality and another still missing inside the rubble.

Minnehaha Academy announced the names of the victim and the person still missing inside the school. Ruth Berg, a receptionist who worked at the private school for 17 years is described as “welcoming everyone with a smile and always willing to go the extra mile to help students, families, and staff.”

Berg’s sister Sherrie Jesse Heap Winkler, wrote on her sister’s Facebook page:

“This is Ruth’s sister. As some of you may not know I live in Idaho, formerly Colorado. It is terribly hard not being with my family at this difficult time, and I haven’t yet spoken to our mother as she isn’t up to talking yet,” Winkler wrote. “I would like to thank you all for the kind words and the beautiful pictures. am trying to hold it together and your words have been a great comfort. Ruth often spoke of her friends and you meant the world to her. She also spoke of her job and co workers a lot, and believe me when I say she loved you to bits and loved her work. May you all find comfort in one another. Sherrie.”

John Carson has been identified as the missing man who is still inside the school. Carson, 81, is a janitor who has worked for the school for years.

Alpha News spoke with one man who works in the school’s accounting office. “It just all exploded, I was pushed down to the floor, and felt all of this dust.” Describing the explosion itself, “It was like this big rush of air that pushed me down and knocked the walls and stuff, and when I came around, that’s when I saw the flames on the other side of the building.”

Tremon Vanleer, who was in the gym helping with basketball practice told Alpha News that they felt the explosion and were able to get out. Once they were outside, that is when they saw the damage. The gym is located approximately 50-60 feet away from the main damage of the building.

This is a developing story and we will update as we learn more information.

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.