25th Anniversary of the Downtown St. Cloud Gas Explosion
ST. CLOUD (WJON News) -- Monday marks the 25th anniversary of the gas explosion in downtown St. Cloud. The incident happened at 11:40 a.m. on December 11th, 1998.
Four people died and 11 others were hurt in the blast.
Six businesses were destroyed including Ballantti's Pizza which is where the explosion happened. Tom's Bar and Book 'Ems Bar were also destroyed. Other businesses demolished included L. Michael Law Office and Bartsch Bail Bonds.
Book 'Ems owner Dan Wedin was inside his bar along with his beer distributor and a couple of customers at the time.
He says an NSP worker checked gas levels inside the building about 30 seconds before the explosion - not enough time for him to evacuate.
I got buried underneath the rubble. My bar didn't have a basement, so I was just on a slab. If I had had a basement we wouldn't be here talking. That's what made Ballantti's crumble down.
Wedin says everyone else in his bar was able to get out safely. A police officer helped to get him out of the rubble.
I could hear a cop and he grabbed me by my arm and he said can you move your feet? I said yes, and he pulled me by my arms and pulled me out of the rubble. He said to keep running, get out of here, we don't know if it is going to blow again.
Wedin says physically he was okay but it was a very emotional experience.
The original Book 'Ems was open from July 1991 until the explosion in December 1998. Wedin describes his establishment as 'a perfect little bar with one bartender, whiskey, pizza and pull tabs" with a lot of regulars.
In March 1999, the new Book 'Ems opened on West St. Germain Street. That closed in 2012.
The explosion which was caused by a worker puncturing an underground gas pipeline, caused about $400,000 in damage.
The portion of the block where the explosion happened was never redeveloped. It is now owned by the county and is used as a parking lot.
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