Construction blast damages vehicle in Duluth
Heidi Owens of Proctor was getting off Interstate 35 onto 21st Avenue East Tuesday afternoon when debris flew up into the air and landed on her car. "I heard it first, then saw it coming at us. The explosion was so strong, I thought we were going...
Heidi Owens of Proctor was getting off Interstate 35 onto 21st Avenue East Tuesday afternoon when debris flew up into the air and landed on her car.
"I heard it first, then saw it coming at us. The explosion was so strong, I thought we were going to die," she said, adding that it seemed like a bomb went off.
The blast came from a construction site on the 2100 block of London Road. Developer Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors of Minneapolis began work on a 148-unit apartment building on the site earlier this month. Mark Bell, co-founder of Harbor Bay, said they had a contractor blasting on the site, but wouldn't comment further. Dick Boening, project manager with Super Excavators Inc. of Menomonee Falls, Wis., also said he wouldn't comment on the blasting.
The Duluth police and fire departments responded to the scene at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday after receiving reports of an explosion. Police determined that one vehicle was damaged as a result of the explosion, according to police spokesman Ron Tinsley.
No injuries were reported, said Assistant Fire Chief Chris Martinson. Fire officials were on the scene for about 50 minutes. The fire department treats explosion calls as a "full alarm" because first responders don't know what to expect when they arrive, he said. Six firetrucks full of personnel responded to the call Tuesday, but five were quickly released after Martinson checked the roads surrounding the blast and determined there weren't any injuries.
After the blast, a white tinge circled a swath of disturbed dirt on the site. Workers waited in a Super Excavators vehicle as police officers questioned witnesses, then the workers walked around the construction site with police and fire officials.
Heidi Owens said she and her son Greg Owens were bringing their dog to the groomer when the blast happened. Greg said he reacted the debris first, throwing his arm protectively across his mother and telling her, "We're going to die." Heidi said she never heard a warning horn go off.
The hard dirt chunks and rocks landed on Heidi's car roof and trunk, with the largest rock leaving a dent in her roof. Heidi Owens said they were lucky the rocks didn't go through the windshield and injure them.
"It was like a mushroom cloud coming at you," she said. "It landed on top of us, not through us."
Ken Gilbertson of Duluth had just finished a bike ride along Lake Superior with his nephew and was leaving Water Street on the south side of I-35. Gilbertson said he heard a warning horn sound three times and then a blast.
The dust from the explosion went high into the air and debris fell on the freeway's south side, he said.
"We had to stop or else we would have been hit," Gilbertson said.
The blast endangered people in the area and the company was lucky no one was injured, said Gilbertson, who added that he's worked on construction sites where blasting took place. He said he was concerned that he didn't see any blast mats on the ground to prevent debris from flying into the air.
"I can't believe it. It's unbelievable," he said.