Victim in South St. Paul home explosion identified by family

Family of St. Paul explosion victim speaks out

Family of St. Paul explosion victim speaks out

The photograph shows a smiling Ryan Richards, surrounded by his beaming family, at his high school graduation.

“Just a high-energy person,” his sister Nhu recalled Saturday night. “Very strong in his belief, but tender. Very extroverted kid.”

But the last two days have been heartbreaking for Richards’ family — ever since a fire ripped through the South St. Paul home he shared with his mother, Ester, and his brother.

RELATED: 1 found dead, investigation continues after reported South St. Paul house explosion

Nhu says the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed with Ester that remains found inside the home were Ryan’s.

He was just 44 years old.

“It was just a shock to me,” Nhu says. “And I think because it was so unexpected, and still trying to understand what happened. I don’t know what happened, and I know a lot of my siblings are feeling the same way.”

She says Ryan’s identity was confirmed after the family identified a necklace and a watch he was wearing, and from his clothes.

The ATF and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating the cause of the fire.

Nhu says her mother was at a friend’s house the night of the fire, and the brother was in South Dakota.

She explains Ryan was taking care of their mother, who is 77 and uses a wheelchair.

“He was in a position to be able to take care of her, and be there with her,” Nhu says. “They just had a relationship where it worked for them, and for him to live there. He wasn’t married or anything like that and wanted to take care of my mother.”

The fire broke out around 6:20 Thursday morning at the Richards’ home on Ninth Avenue.

Sean Henry, a neighbor, heard several explosions, ran outside and saw the flames.

“It was an inferno,” he says. “It was almost like a tornado, some parts kind of whipped up in the air and engulfed the whole house.”  

Firefighters say Ryan’s remains were recovered inside the garage.

Now, as they come to terms with his passing, the family has launched a GoFundMe for Ryan — or Ryanita as he was known to his family according to Nhu on the crowdfunding page — to help Ester with expenses.   

“We just don’t have the capacity to support her in the ways we would like to,” Nhu says. “She lost everything in the fire. I think this is the best avenue to do that and just get community help that’s accessible to a lot of people and get the word out as well.”