Husband and wife killed in Hopkins house explosion

“In my 30 years, I’ve never seen an explosion like this,” said Dale Spiken, chief of the Hopkins Fire Department.

Hopkins, Minnesota – An elderly couple died in a home explosion in a Hopkins neighborhood Wednesday morning, authorities said.

Fire crews and police officers were called to 2nd Street North and 21st Avenue North around 10:15 a.m. Wednesday after reports of an explosion and blaze were reported, Dale Spiken, Hopkins Fire Chief, said.

Spiken said some people heard or felt the explosion 15 blocks away.

Traffic cameras from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) showed large plumes of smoke billowing over the area. When crews of KARE 11 arrived on the scene, the house collapsed and caught fire.

“In my 30 years, I’ve never seen an explosion like this,” Spiken said.

First responders identified the bodies of the homeowners, a husband and wife in their 80s, inside the home. Family members identified the two victims as Herb Vassar, 85, and his wife, Sharon Vassar, 83, of Hopkins.

Alyssa Kennedy’s granddaughter described the couple as “lively”, saying they loved camp and just got back from a week’s vacation last week. I remember that Herb built the house himself in 1964, and explained that he loved mowing the lawn and tending his garden.

While fire officials wouldn’t speculate on any cause, Kennedy told reporters that the home’s water heater had recently started leaking and that her grandfather had installed a new one himself the night before the explosion. While he was a 60-year-old carpenter capable of doing many things by himself, she believes this may have caused the explosion.

“He’s 85 years old… We wonder if maybe he wasn’t tightening enough and that was the cause of the explosion,” she said.

Earlier today, the Specken chief said crews are searching a debris field.

“We really won’t know anything until we get into more of the structure,” Spiken said. “But at this time, it was a very violent explosion, as you can see.”

Spiken added that crews did not find a gas leak on the outside of the house. CenterPoint Energy has checked the rest of the area and said there are no gas leaks or problems with other homes.

Kennedy said she visits her grandparents regularly and had a long phone conversation with Sharon Vassar on Monday. She is waiting for the seriousness of what happened.

Kennedy said, “It’s weird when your grandparents are already and you expect one day that they’re going to die…but then all of a sudden it’s both and…that’s just something completely different…a completely different atmosphere.”

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