Flashback Friday: Minnehaha Academy explosion 2 years ago causes massive damage, kills 2 | KSTP.com

Flashback Friday: Minnehaha Academy explosion 2 years ago causes massive damage, kills 2

Updated: August 02, 2019 02:17 PM

It was a day many people in the metro will not soon forget.

On Aug. 2, 2017, a section of Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis collapsed following a natural gas explosion, leaving a portion of the school demolished, two people dead and one person suffering such severe injuries that he had to have a leg amputated.

The explosion killed 82-year-old John Carlson, a custodian, and 47-year-old Ruth Berg, a receptionist. Bryan Duffey, 26 at the time and an assistant boys soccer coach at the school, was listed in critical condition after the explosion and went through three surgeries, one of them being a right-leg amputation. 

RELATED: 2 dead after Minnehaha Academy explosion

Berg had worked at the school for 17 years prior to her passing. Over that time, she came to know thousands of students, staff and parents. She was engaged to Mark Burrington, who Ruth met and had a crush on dating back to when they were in the third grade. She was known to be an eternal optimist, and loved being a mother to her daughter, Brittany. 

Carlson was a Minnehaha Academy graduate. He also served in the Army. Carlson's family told KSTP he came back to the school to work as a custodian in 2003 because he was bored with retirement. John was known by many to be a kind, caring person, as well as a true gentleman. 


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Just last month, Duffey joined Minnehaha Academy's president and other staff members in filing a lawsuit against the gas company and contactor who were involved in the moving of a gas meter that led to the explosion. He spoke with KSTP in August 2018 about the challenges he now faces from that day.

RELATED: Minnehaha Academy president, coach file lawsuits over school explosion

"It's frustrating at times but I mostly feel so full of grace to be alive and experiencing some of this stuff," Duffey said.

Minnehaha Academy President Donna Harris, along with her husband Rick Harris, filed one of the lawsuits. That lawsuit indicates Donna sustained "substantial injuries" in the explosion, including a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Three additional lawsuits filed by Minnehaha Academy staff members Dan Bowles, Joel Maart, and Bonnie Anderson allege they each suffered concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the explosion.

Nine people in total were injured in the blast. Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said the majority of the damage was to the center portion of the building where the explosion occurred, triggering a two-story collapse.

RAW VIDEO: Minnehaha Academy explosion

The school was first founded in 1913 and lists an enrollment of 341 in grades 9-12. The school was not in session in August. The explosion occurred on the school's upper campus, which houses grades 9-12. The south (lower) campus houses grades pre-K through 8.

The destroyed portions of the school were torn down and rebuilt. KSTP's Leah McLean, a graduate from the school, took a tour in May of the newly-built building.

School will be back in session on Aug. 21.

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Tommy Wiita

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