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Feds Probe Minn. Gas Explosion

December 13, 1998

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) _ National Guard troops surrounded the downtown area Saturday to prevent looting after a natural gas explosion demolished three buildings and killed four people.

Officials, confident no one else was trapped in the crumbled buildings, stopped searching for bodies and began looking for answers.

``They are going through all the rubble and looking for evidence _ corrosion, evidence of ruptures, other strikes against pipelines and powerlines,″ said Keith Holloway, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Officials said construction workers apparently ruptured a gas line while laying fiber optic cable. The ensuing explosion leveled buildings that housed a pizza restaurant _ empty because it was being remodeled _ a law office, four apartments and a bar. Fifteen people were injured. One remained in critical condition Saturday and the rest were treated and released.

NTSB investigator Jack Fox said they may never know what sparked the explosion in this city 70 miles northwest of Minneapolis. He’s not sure how long the downtown section will be closed.

Officials said two Northern States Power Co. employees likely saved lives before the blast took their own.

Robert J. Jacobs, 46, and Karl Klang, 53, were trying to seal a gas leak and evacuate people when the blast occurred. The others killed in the blast were resident Delbert Rose, 68, and Carolyn Sandquist, 53, who was in the area for lunch.

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