Corey Pierson had just fallen asleep late Friday, his wife, son and newborn twin daughters already in bed before him. A few houses away, Debbie Newton was watching a hockey game on her laptop.
Suddenly their Lakeville neighborhood erupted.
“I mean a huge boom that I’ve never experienced before, and I’m going ‘What the hell has happened?’ ” said Newton.
“It sounded like a bomb. I thought my car exploded,” Pierson said.
His locked front door and garage service door were blown open. Rushing to his front window, he could see debris in trees and on roofs.
A food truck parked on the block had blown apart, showering the street with metal and glass and damaging up to 20 homes. Only the steering wheel, driver’s seat and part of the truck’s chassis remained in place — the vehicle’s fenders and its metal sides were blown into neighbors’ yards. Insulation and shards of metal dangled from trees. Bread rolls were scattered on the melting snow.
Investigators were still working Saturday to determine the precise cause of the blast, although their focus was on the cooking gas stored in the Motley Crews Heavy Metal Grill food truck.
The truck had been parked in the driveway of a house in the 16500 block of Joplin Path shared by Motley Crews owner Marty Richie, and his partner, Lisa. The couple were 1986 classmates at Kennedy High School in Bloomington who reunited on Facebook in 2009. They have been planning to open a storefront location in Lakeville on June 1, according to the website heavytable.com, an industry blog.
“Everybody is OK, and that’s what counts,” said Richie, who learned about the explosion moments after it happened Friday night. “Nobody knows what happened.”
Authorities responded to the scene about 11:30 p.m., the explosion having been heard for miles around. Lakeville police received more than 80 phone calls regarding the blast, with reports from as far away as Farmington.
The explosion shook nearby homes, shattered windows, snapped 2-by-4s in garages, blew open doors and rattled dishes and other items from shelves and off walls. Residents startled from their sleep ran blinking outside to see their neighbor’s food truck nearly obliterated.
Newton, the fan whose hockey game was interrupted by the blast, said that about 20 years ago a house exploded a block away from her because of a gas leak. That sound didn’t compare to Friday’s detonation, she said.
‘Whole house shook’
Aaron Kirchner jumped from his sleep thinking a car had crashed into his house. “The whole house shook.”
His front windows were blown out, sending glass everywhere, he added. Seeing that their toddler was fine, he and his wife, Liz, next began searching for their cats. Liz Kirchner stuck her head out the window, smelled propane and saw the wreckage.
Saturday, their front windows, along with those of several neighbors, were boarded up with plywood.
“We have a 2-year-old and I just want to get things back to normal,” Liz Kirchner said. Her husband had just carried another load of broken glass and debris out of the house. Inside, doors were split in half, walls were cracked and fireplace bricks were shoved off kilter.
Friends aid family
A friend set up a GoFundMe account for Richie and his family to help pay for repairs. As of Saturday evening, 63 donors had raised more than $3,600.
“The entire truck is gone, vehicles [are] in shambles and their home is in dire need of repairs now. They will not be able to stay in their home since it is not safe and it is cold in Minnesota and they have no windows,” wrote the friend, who said Richie took him in as a homeless teen.
Richie’s teenage daughter was inside the home at the time of the blast but was uninjured.
It was unclear Saturday how recently the food truck had been inspected.
Licensing and inspections of food trucks are dependent on where the businesses operate, said Minnesota Department of Health spokesman Doug Schultz. Some local governments, such as Minneapolis and Bloomington, oversee trucks that operate within their boundaries, he said. Otherwise, trucks are licensed and inspected by the state Health Department.
When food trucks are first licensed, inspectors ensure the appliances and equipment associated with the food operation are hooked up properly, Schultz said. He wasn’t sure if or how often additional inspections are done on the equipment.
The Lakeville explosion follows a similar event in Philadelphia last year when a leaking propane tank on the back of a food truck exploded. Two people were critically burned and later died.
Staff Writer Liz Sawyer contributed to this report.