Searchers have recovered the remains of two young children unaccounted for following a farmhouse blaze in southwestern Minnesota that also left a firefighter seriously hurt after a firetruck ran over his legs, authorities said Thursday.
The house that was engulfed in flames Wednesday northeast of Lucan in Redwood County was the home of Bernadette and Matthew Thooft and their seven children, a neighbor said Thursday.
The fire erupted about 2:30 p.m., sending members of the family fleeing as firefighters from several departments arrived.
Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Jennifer Longaecker said that the remains of one child was recovered late Wednesday. The other child was found Thursday. Both were believed to be younger than 10 years old.
The children’s names and ages will be released after the Ramsey County medical examiners’s office positively identifies them. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
The Thoofts have been licensed to provide foster care for up to two children in recent years, according to state Department of Human Services records. The records currently list those services as “closed.”
In February, the Thoofts opened the Store: Thrift and More, which sells groceries, clothing, books and collectibles in a general store atmosphere in nearby Vesta.
A friend’s extensive photo essay detailing the store’s opening says the Thoofts have seven children, none older than 12 and one not yet 3.
The store’s Facebook page says the Thoofts’ 8-acre farm and six-bedroom house is for sale for $185,000.
The notice says the house was moved onto the property in 2005, and the Thoofts have raised goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese there.
Firefighter’s long recovery
Neal Hansen, a firefighter from nearby Vesta, was hospitalized after he slipped and was run over by a fire rig, Longaecker said.
Hansen had surgery on his right leg to repair numerous deep cuts inflicted while he was under the pumper truck; he was scheduled to have a rod placed in his left leg during surgery Friday at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, said his wife, Tiffany Hansen. She said her husband will be out of work for three months while he recovers.
Tiffany Hansen is an emergency medical technician for Vesta but was not called to the fire. However, she said, “I heard over the pager” that a firefighter was hurt.
She said she couldn’t tell who was injured, but “you just get that sinking feeling,” she said. “Sometimes you just know. A little bit later I get the call.”
North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale was foiled in sending an air ambulance to Neal Hansen’s aid, which meant a ground ambulance had to make the more than 130-mile trip in difficult winter conditions and then more than 80 miles to Mankato, Tiffany Hansen said.
“It was a very iffy drive,” she said. “Not fun.”