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Witness says deadly Minneapolis school blast "like a sonic boom"

Building explosion

Dramatic stories are emerging from those who witnessed Wednesday morning's gas leak explosion that left at least two people dead at a college prep school in Minneapolis, CBS Minneapolis reports.

Shortly after 10:30 a.m., a gas leak at the Minnehaha Academy caused an explosion. Officials at Hennepin County Medical Center say nine victims arrived at the hospital, with seven adults admitted. Three suffered critical injuries, four suffered serious injuries.

Minneapolis fire officials say it appears 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 CBS Minneapolis.

"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 the flames started, and we were 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 there was a female who was right there, right by the wall, and I can only hope that it was fast. If that's any comfort, that's the one," Meskan said.

Meskan went on to describe the first rescue.

"He was crushed … he was unconscious but he was breathing," he said. "We got a heartbeat, 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.

"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 flying through the air, and just taking off and running, and getting there and people saying 'We need help, let's go,'" he said.

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.

Minnehaha Academy is a private Christian school for students in preschool through 12th grade.

An aerial view at the damage after a blast rocked Minnehaha Academy on Wed., Aug. 2, 2017. CBS Minnesota
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