I’ve been covering the story of the explosion and fire that took place in the Cedar-Riveraide neighborhood on Minneapolis, Minnesota on New Year’s Day. There’s been a fair but of misinformation and confusion. This post is designed to clear up some of that with unfiltered facts from spokespeople for the gas company CenterPoint and the Minneapolis Police Department.
Please listen to the audio clips. There’s a LOT of detail in the clips. If you just read the post and skip the clips, you’ll miss a lot.
CenterPoint Is Definitive: No Gas Leak With Their System
Because of the conflicting statements, I contacted CenterPoint and spoke with Rebecca Virdin. I’m glad I did because as you’ll see in a moment, there’s some very bad reporting going on with this story.
Our distribution system after we checked it–which runs up to the meter, which is the distribution system’s responsibility, to the meter–has no leak on it at all. We tested that system and it holds its test. We even took it apart and tested it to make sure because it had no leakage. It’s fully sound.
As for our system, we had no leakage, no leak history, no leak calls into our call centers prior to the incident before, during or after.
Here’s audio of the interview, which is longer than what I quoted. It seems very definitive. Listen to it.
Police Officer Was On Scene
CenterPoint says nobody reported smelling gas and significantly, the spokeswoman for CenterPoint says that they were told a police officer was in the building just minutes prior to the explosion.
I followed up with the Minneapolis police, who confirmed an officer was outside when the explosion happened. The officer was been called to the address on a robbery call.
Explosion “Isolated To One Unit”
Apparently, the explosion came from one unit on the second floor.
Fire Chief Still Blames “Gas Problem”
Despite all of this–the firm denial from CenterPoint, the police officer on scene minutes before, the fact that the explosion came from one unit–the fire chief is still sticking to the gas story.
Fire Chief John Fruetel said Thursday afternoon that witness accounts of a natural gas smell and the explosion strongly suggest that gas was involved.
Fruetel added that the fire began either on the second floor or third floor.
But Fruetel also said that investigators are not certain what caused the fire and they may never be certain. He said four or five investigators have been on the site around the clock, looking for evidence such as debris patterns.
No mention of the police officer. Uncertainty about whether the explosion and fire began on the second or third floor. And the prediction that investigators may never know what happened.
That’s the stuff conspiracy theories are made of. I hate conspiracy theories, so I’m going to keep reporting on
The Star-Tribune’s Bad Reporting
Further complicating the story is some unconscionably awful reporting by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. This article attributes two quotes to Rebecca Virdin.
I grappled over whether I should discuss this but after several people on Twitter told me that they’d heard that there was ‘no natural gas in the area’, I decided that I should speak out about what I knew.
The quote about ‘no natural gas in the area’ comes from the reporting of Paul Walsh at the Star-Tribune. I don’t know Mr. Walsh.
During the course of my interview with Rebecca Virdin, she told that Mr. Walsh had misquoted her. She also told me that she’d contacted him to correct the misquote and other errors. Here’s the audio of Ms. Virdin telling me about this.
Continued: Body recovered from rubble of Cedar-Riverside explosion, fire
Except that’s not what Rebecca Virden said.
On an important story that’s sparked national interest, a spokesperson is misquoted about important details by Star-Tribube. Another quote is made up. Bad, bad, bad.
I left a message for the New Editor of the Star-Tribune. No response.