MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Authorities said Thursday they have discovered a body in the ruins of a Minneapolis apartment fire, as investigators were honing in on natural gas as a potential cause of the explosion and blaze that left 14 other people injured.
Fire Chief John Fruetel said the investigation was ongoing and the fire's exact cause was still unknown Thursday — and may never be determined. But, he said, because of the nature of the debris field and because some witnesses spoke of an odor, investigators were focusing on a gas explosion as a possibility.
Becca Virden, a spokeswoman for CenterPoint Energy, said there were no natural gas leaks in the system and the utility received no reports of a suspicious odor before the blast.
Fire officials say they received a call about an explosion about 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, and within minutes a fire raged through the three-story building. In sub-zero temperatures, paramedics responded to find victims on the ground, some with injuries that suggested they may have fallen multiple stories.
Fruetel said that as of Thursday afternoon, authorities had identified 13 of the 14 people injured. Authorities released no identifying information about the person found dead Thursday. The body was turned over to the medical examiner.
Of the injured, three people remained in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center, while six were in satisfactory condition, according to the hospital. University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, said it was treating at least two patients Thursday: one was in serious condition with broken bones and one was in good condition with back pain.
Shortly before the body was found Thursday, Fruetel said that two people remained unaccounted for and crews would continue to remove debris from the site in a slow, respectful manner.