A major explosion and fire rocked a Sartell paper mill shortly before noon on Memorial Day, killing a Verso employee.
Officials confirmed that the worker killed was Jon Maus, 50, of Albany, Minn. -- a father of four.
Maus's wife, Lucy, operates a salon on Main Street in Sartell. That business is closed until further notice as the family grieves.
Family friend Lisa Getch, who have known the Maus family for more than 20 years, told FOX 9 News that the Maus had been working at their farm until Verso called him back following a layoff last year.
"John was a good guy -- you trusted him," she said.
Getch said her children grew up with the Maus kids. Now that Jon Maus is gone, she says his kids are all she can think about.
"Lucy has a long road now, but she's got a lot of family -- and Jon's family will be with her as well," Getch said.
Five others were injured in the blast. Three were treated and released from St. Cloud Hospital, but the conditions of the other two remain unknown. The identities of the injured have not been released.
Gov. Mark Dayton was taken to the scene by helicopter at about 1 p.m. Tuesday to survey the damage. By Tuesday afternoon, he pledged the state would do "everything it possibly can" to get the mill operating again.
After more than 24 hours of firefighting efforts, the flames were 95 percent contained by Tuesday night. Firefighters said they hope to get inside on Wednesday and completely extinguish the hot spots -- but they need to get the green light from a structural engineer first.
"We've made substantial progress, but the challenge we have is: The building is unstable," said Sartell Fire Chief Ken Heim.
The mill's warehouse walls and roofs collapsing onto reams of flammable paper stored inside during the fire, and the area is still smoldering.
Part of the reason the firefighting efforts have been so difficult is due to the initial explosion, which blew out a water main that supplied the sprinkler system. The plant cannot reopen until that system is repaired.
The city of Sartell plans to bring in a structural engineer to check the integrity of a paper mill as it begins investigating what sparked the explosion and fire.
A St. Cloud Fire Department captain told FOX 9 News it is quite possible that a large tank from an air compressor blew up, but the exact cause won't be known until the state fire marshal can get inside and take a look.
"All we know is: We had a significant event in the facility -- cause still very much unknown," said Matt Archambeau, Verso plant manager, told FOX 9 News on Monday.
Homeland Security Emergency Management also assisted the St. Cloud Chemical Assessment Team following the incident, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
The plant employs about 260 people, and the company had a full staff of about 50 workers inside at the time of the explosion despite the Memorial Day holiday.
City leaders say the mill is a top employer in the area -- and is essentially the lifeblood of the local economy. Sartell Mayor Joe Perske says when something happens at the mill, it affects the whole city, which has a population of about 16,000.
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