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Neighbors step up after blast; 2 remain in critical condition

September 17, 2012
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

TRACY - All was relatively quiet Saturday night on Elm Street in Tracy, 12 hours after a house explosion sent a mother and her three daughters to the hospital.

On one side of the street sat the ravaged home of Sonja Timmons, its charred remains sitting in a pile on the front lawn. On the other sat Sheena Schons and a few friends who spent time reminiscing about the day's events and recalling all the rumors they heard swirling about town concerning the explosion.

In between the two houses, kids roamed the street calling out for one of the Timmons' dogs, a chocolate lab named Bailey, who apparently ran away shortly after the explosion and hadn't been seen since.

Article Photos

Photo by Per Peterson

This home on the 200 block of Elm Street in Tracy was considered a total loss after Saturday morning’s explosion and fire. The front windows were blown out, sending glass all the way across the street.

"People are still driving by to look at the house and it's dark out," Schons said Saturday evening.

It was a scene Schons had a front-row seat to all day from her front steps. But she was more than a spectator; she and her husband were a big part of the story of the year in Tracy.

The blast occurred between 8:30-9 a.m. on the 200 block of Elm Street, its cause unknown, although signs point to a gas leak of some kind.

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The family said in a news release Monday that recovery will require multiple surgeries and months of physical rehabilitation. The family said it has received support from across the country.

Two funds have been set up for the family. Supporters can donate by credit card by calling First Independent Bank in Balaton at 507-734-2100 or mail checks to:

First Independent Bank

108 3rd Street

Balaton, MN 56115

Another fund has been set up at MinnWest Bank. Donations can be dropped off at any of the bank's locations or made online. The name of the fund is "Benefit for the Timmons Family."

Timmons and her three daughters were injured and, with the help of Schons, were brought to the Sanford Medical Center in Tracy before being airlifted to a burn facility in the Twin Cities.

Sonja Timmons remained in critical condition at Regions Hospital in the Twin Cities on Monday. Timmons' two-month old daughter, Jaydn, who was pulled from her crib by neighbor Matt Schons, is listed in good condition. Timmons' 8-year-old daughter Kaylee is in critical condition, and 2-year-old MKena is in serious condition, Regions said.

Sonja Timmons' fiance, Troy Haugen, gave a short statement Sunday responding to the support the family has received.

"Thank you for your prayers and support during this difficult time," Haugen said. "I would also like to thank the medical staff at Regions Hospital who are caring for Sonja. I am confident she is getting the best care possible."

Sheena Schons said the explosion blew the chimney off the roof and sent glass from the front windows of the house all the way across the street. Shards of glass ended up in Schons' front yard. A burned curtain could be seen up in the branches of a tree outside of Timmons' home.

The Schonses became a part of the story as soon as they got up that morning.

They awoke to the sound of breaking glass. Matt Schons told Sheena to call 911 and quickly got dressed. Then he went outside and saw Timmons' 8-year-old running outside. She was screaming for help as she headed to a neighbor's house.

Matt Schons raced across the street where he encountered Timmons, who was holding her 2-year-old daughter. After being told the baby was still in her crib inside, Schons took action.

"I just went inside and tried to hear for crying, but the baby wasn't crying," Matt Schons said. "She didn't start crying until I picked her up."

He said he didn't have to think twice about trying to help.

"It was kind of an instinctive thing," he said. "I just reacted. We saw the little girl run outside yelling, 'Help, help,' and she ran over to the neighbors. Then the mom said the baby was still inside, so I took it upon myself to see if I could find her. It was very smoky inside and hard to see and pretty hard to breathe; I was lucky I was able to find her and get her outta there."

Sheena Schons took the baby and was driven to the hospital with Timmons and her other children.

"The mom was holding the two-year-old, and they were hurt pretty bad," she said. "We took the baby and got in someone's car and went to the hospital. The whole front of the house was in flames. She said something about she lit a cigarette and she got engulfed in flames or something like that."

"The individuals of the house were all out of the house when we arrived on scene," Tracy Fire Chief Dale Johnson III said. "Three minutes after we arrived on scene the fire was under control. We have no idea what the cause of the explosion was, and it's under investigation."

Johnson said the house is a total loss.

"I was stunned, kind of freaked out," Sheena Schons said. "You never really think it will happen here."

"It was a big boom; I thought it was the trains or something, or the guys fixing the sidewalk," said Melissa Haney, who lives down the street from where the explosion took place. "I sleep with the fan on, but I heard something, I just didn't know for sure what it was at first."

Matt Schons works as a cook at the Colonial Manor in Balaton. His boss is Timmons' mother. He went to work his day-long shift after the incident and said he doesn't see himself as a hero.

"Lots of people do that for a living," he said. "Just lucky enough to be home at that moment."



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