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One Dead in Gas Explosion; 11 Injured

July 22, 1993

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ A gas-line explosion shook a downtown neighborhood today, killing at least one person, critically injuring seven others and starting a fire that raced through several buildings, authorities said.

A sewer maintenance crew apparently struck a natural gas line with a backhoe, a utility official said.

″I assume they were making a repair ... somewhere close to the gas line,″ said James H. Willson, director of gas engineering and construction for the Northern States Power Co.

It wasn’t known what actually sparked the explosion, he said.

The maintenance crew was sent to the area on the eastern edge of downtown before the explosion and workers smelled gas. They alerted the gas company and began evacuating residents.

Two workers were badly burned, said Jane Chada, the director’s secretary at the city Public Works Department.

One person was killed, seven people were in critical condition at a hospital and four more had minor injuries, authorities said.

Mike Voss, who runs a gas station near where the explosion occurred, said there was ″high pressure gas blowing out of the ground″ before the blast and ″something made it explode.″

The 9 a.m. explosion ″blew vehicles across the parking lot,″ he said. ″It blew out windows in our building. It leveled a two-story apartment and commercial building.″

At least two homes in the neighborhood also caught fire, he said.

The explosion occurred near a building that included a grocery store, bookstore and upstairs apartments, witnesses said. Debris was strewn throughout the area and smoke billowed high into the air.

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