Second victim of Minneapolis house explosion dies

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 10, 2011 - 8:05 PM

Valerie VanMieghem-Moore died Wednesday morning. Her friend, Elizabeth Mulay, died Aug. 5.

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Wreckage lay strewn across the yard after an explosion and fire at this home in north Minneapolis.

Photo: Leah Millis, Star Tribune

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A second woman injured in a suspected natural gas explosion that destroyed a north Minneapolis house last month has died, family members said.

Valerie VanMieghem-Moore, 41, was taken off life support Wednesday morning at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) with her husband, mother and other family members standing nearby. She died shortly before noon.

The other woman in the house at the time, Elizabeth Mulay, 43, died Aug. 5.

VanMieghem-Moore, according to her CaringBridge website, was put in an induced coma after she arrived at HCMC's burn unit with extensive injuries. Most of her skin was destroyed by the fire.

"God needs a good angel and that's one thing she was; she was a kindhearted person," said her husband, Ezell Moore, who walked out of the hospital Wednesday with friends and relatives for an impromptu memorial on the hospital's lawn. The group released balloons and prayed together.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by sons, Kenneth, 7, and Ezell Jr., 5, and her mother, Mary Todtz of Davenport, Iowa.

Her sons were not home at the time of the fire. A family friend said someone plans to establish a charitable fund for the boys, who lost everything.

Mulay, VanMieghem-Moore's friend, was the only other person in the one-story house at 4314 Morgan Av. N.

"She was a very passionate person," said Don Sellers, a family member, speaking of Mulay. "She had a lot of drive, a lot of determination in what she was doing."

Sellers said Mulay was close to finishing a counseling degree from Minneapolis Community and Technical College. She had five boys, ages 8 to 23.

Mulay had also worked as a barista at the former Audubon Coffee Shop in northeast Minneapolis at Johnson and 29th Streets. A memorial for Mulay was planned for Thursday.

Both women were severely burned in the explosion. VanMieghem-Moore's family members said they had been told by a fire official that it may have been caused by a gas leak from a stove. While arson investigators have found no evidence the blast was a crime, a fire department spokeswoman said she would not speculate on the cause.

Todtz said her daughter, who rented the home in February, had heart surgery two months ago and upon returning from the hospital noticed an unusual smell in the house. Todtz said that her daughter had kept the doors and windows open until recently, when she closed up the house for the air conditioning. A gas company spokeswoman said no leaks were found on the gas line along the street or up to the home's gas meter.

The explosion ripped the house apart at 12:25 p.m. July 30. A neighbor said he heard a boom and saw an air conditioner blown into the front yard. Mulay and VanMieghem-Moore ran from the home screaming and on fire. Neighbors helped them across the street to the lawn of Patrick Henry High School.

City records say the home belongs to Joseph Hoffman. He has not been available for comment.

K.G. Wilson, founder and president of Hope Ministries and spokesman for the Charez Jones Foundation, plans to hold a vigil for VanMieghem-Moore at 5 p.m. Saturday at the explosion site. A vigil was held at the spot on Sunday for Mulay.

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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