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Neighbor saved baby after Tracy house exploded

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS
  • Star Tribune
  • September 16, 2012 - 9:32 PM

Sheena and Matt Schons of Tracy, Minn., were jolted from sleep by the sound of the house across the street blowing up. Flying window glass shattered against their doorstep.

The house, occupied by Sonja Timmons, her three little girls and her fiancé, Troy Haugen, was afire after the Saturday morning blast, which injured all of them except Haugen, who was at work.

"We looked out our bedroom blinds and saw a fire in their living room," Sheena Schons said Sunday. It was "unreal and shocking ... hearing the screams, the smell of burnt hair and skin."

Matt pulled on shoes and raced shirtless in his flannel PJ pants to the burning house. Sheena called 911.

One of the girls, Caylee, 7, "ran out bawling and screaming, 'Help! Help!' Then her mom and little sister [McKenna, 2] came out the side door," Sheena Schons said.

Timmons, whose pink shirt was "melted off her back" and who appeared to be in shock, told Matt that her 2-month-old baby was still inside, in a crib, Sheena Schons said.

Matt Schons didn't hesitate. He charged into the smoke-filled house. When heat fogged his glasses, he came back out, put them on a grill and returned. "I could see fire and smoke everywhere," he said. "I circled the area and found the crib."

Schons was relieved when he picked up the baby and she began crying, because then he knew she was conscious. Cradling her, he raced out. Flames roared around them.

Outside, "the kids and mom were sitting at the curb crying and screaming," Sheena Schons said. Caylee's shirt was burned off and McKenna had suffered burns. All had singed hair and burned, peeling skin. Matt Schons said Timmons thanked him for saving her baby, whose legs and arms were burned, and said the blast occurred as she lit a cigarette.

A rescue worker arrived and told Timmons, Sheena and the girls to get in his car, and they raced to Sanford Hospital in Tracy. The family was airlifted to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where Timmons, 31, remained in critical condition Sunday, according to spokeswoman Rebecca Scott. The family declined to release the conditions of the three children.

Haugen, at work in Marshall, more than 20 miles away, heard about the fire and drove 110 miles per hour to get to the Tracy hospital, Sheena said. He released a statement that read, "Thank you for your prayers and support during this difficult time."

On Sunday, curtains hung in a tree and a baby blanket lay on the lawn. Fire Chief Dale Johnson III said the blast and fire, which destroyed the house, are under investigation.

After Saturday's rescue, Matt Schons, 25, went to work at a senior residence where he is a cook.

"He's brave," said his 23-year-old wife. "He said it was instinct when he heard a baby was in there. He said he paid no attention to the flames. He just wanted to get the baby."

Jim Adams • 952-746-3283

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