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August 24, 2010 04:57 PM

Explosion Damages Several Homes In Menno

Menno, SD


A South Dakota community is dealing with the aftermath of a deadly explosion.


The blast shook the town of Menno around 10:30 Monday night, killing one woman and hurting at least two others. A relative tells us the explosion was at Gail Guthmiller's house and she was the only one home when it happened.

But as we show you the debris can be found for blocks. Shredded wood, chunks of concrete and debris hanging from trees; that's all that's left of a Menno home.

“The shock wave, that was, that's what I remember, is just that pressure that shock of air pressure hitting you,” neighbor Gary Schelske said.

It was so strong it stopped Schelske in his tracks. And this Vietnam vet immediately feared the worst.

“I was in absolute panic.  I thought our house had exploded.  I thought she was in the kitchen and I thought she had been killed,” Schelske said.

Gary's wife and son were okay, but they soon discovered their neighbor was not.

“Your hope is that she wasn't there.  By some miracle, she wasn't home; as it turns out, that wasn't the case.  We lost our neighbor,” Schelske said.

Now, as investigators try to figure out what went wrong, neighbors are picking up the pieces. All together, four homes were damaged, including Schelske's.

“We're fortunate.  It's only windows and kitchen cupboards; we lost a lot of our dishes,” Schelske said.

But, the blast left severe structural damage at a nearby funeral home and chapel.

“It moved the house and foundation on this wall.  The upstairs has some damage, but everything in the funeral chapel, casket, and living quarters downstairs is just about all trashed,” Hutchinson County Coroner Roger Simonsen said.

At least three large chunks of concrete tore through the roof.

“Once piece of cement, missed the homeowner by two feet, I guess.  She was sitting in the rocker and it hit next to the rocker,” Simonsen said.

Officials say it's fortunate more people weren't hurt, and Schelske says the destruction is worse than anything he saw at war.

“I don't think even a tornado would have been that complete.  There's nothing left of even the furnishings of the home,” Schelske said.

The American Red Cross is helping assist four families.

Neighbors say the situation could have been much worse because during the day children use the city park, which is just feet from the explosion.
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