Neighbors in North Mankato rushed to help after the blast, but smoke from the fire was too thick.
Carol Holbrook was in the kitchen baking sugar cookies and banana bread when she heard -- and felt -- an explosion so strong that she thought it lifted, then set down her North Mankato, Minn., mobile home.
A few doors down, Barbara Wendt was watching TV when the shock of the explosion knocked her off the couch and woke up her husband, Paul. "I thought somebody had run into the house with a car," he said.
Neighbors rushed out at 1:25 a.m. Saturday to see Shawn and Beth Marxen's mobile home engulfed in flames.
Several men broke windows in the Camelot Park Mobile Home Park unit in an attempt to help -- and some thought they heard cries from within -- but the acrid smoke was too thick.
Police and firefighters arrived at 114 Kingsway Drive to find the rear of the mobile home ablaze, and removed two bodies after extinguishing the fire. The cause of the explosion is under investigation.
Positive identifications of the bodies won't come until Monday, according to an investigator at the Ramsey County medical examiner's office.
But Beth's mother, Debra Maus, confirmed that her daughter lived at the home.
The Marxens, neither of whom reported for work Saturday, have two daughters -- Orianna, 12, and Danica, 6 -- who often stayed with grandparents on Friday nights, said Azzizeh Haddad, a co-worker and friend of Beth's.
Beth worked as a district sales manager for the Mankato Free Press, said circulation director Denise Zernechel, who said she learned of the blaze soon after a co-worker's calls to Beth's home and cell phone went unanswered early Saturday.
Zernechel hired Marxen as a part-time customer service representative several years ago, then helped her find a full-time job with the paper. "She was such a good employee, I didn't want to see her leave the Free Press," she said.
Beth, 29, was a giving person whose life centered on her daughters, Haddad said. She also enjoyed the computer game "World of Warcraft" and next weekend was planning to host several out-of-state friends who played the game with them on the Internet.
At work, "Every time she had a break, she had her nose in a book," said Zernechel, who added that Marxen had recently started taking computer science classes online.
Shawn Marxen, 31, worked as a tire technician at R&R Tire Shop in Mankato, where he was hired a week and a half ago, said owner Darold Schaefer. "It seemed like he'd been through a tough time and was trying to get his life back on track."
Staff writer Curt Brown contributed to this report.
Sarah Lemagie 612-673-7557
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