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One Dead, at Least 4 Hurt in Sartell Paper Plant Explosion, Fire [AUDIO]

Beth Scheiterlein

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SARTELL — Officials say one person was killed and four hurt in the explosion and subsequent fire at the Verso Paper Plant in Sartell.

The explosion happened just after 11:15 this morning.

Sartell City Administrator Patti Gartland confirms the fatality and injuries, but no names or details have been released.

UPDATE(5:45 p.m.) St. Cloud Hospital spokeswoman Jeanine Nistler confirms all four people hurt in the explosion and/or fire were taken to St. Cloud Hospital.  She says three have been treated and released while a fourth is still being treated in the emergency trauma center.

Fire crews are still working to put out the fire which Gartland says is 90% contained.

The St. Cloud Times reports that a full shift was working at the plant when an air compressor exploded.

Seven fire department worked together to battle the fire.

Police Chief Jim Hughes says the fire was near large rolls of paper and they’re concerned heat will ignite those large paper bales.

A state patrol helicopter was helping with fire efforts by dropping water scooped up from the Mississippi River.  And Gartland says rain from a severe thunderstorm moving through Sartell actually helped bring down some of the smoke and debris from the fire.

Gartland says the Sartell bridge is again open, although part of Benton Drive is closed.

Gartland says a structural engineer will be called in to determine the building’s integrity.

Another news briefing is scheduled at 7 tonight.  Gartland hopes to have a company official on hand to answer questions at that time.

WJON plans to carry that news briefing live.

Hear City Administrator Patti Gartland’s  4 p.m. news briefing:

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April Gallagher

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