Explosion was ‘like TNT’

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Seventy-five-year-old Pat Yotter says the exploding house she was outside of on Friday about a mile north of Freeborn sent her flying four or five feet in the air.

“It was like TNT. My ears were ringing, and I couldn’t hardly hear,” she said.

Pat and her husband of 56 years, Ralph, were victims of a house explosion on Friday at 29462 660th Ave. He was inside and suffered severe burns to the face and body.

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Burn victim Ralph Yotter’s condition turned worse Tuesday morning, according to Pat.

She said medical staff at Regions Hospital in St. Paul had to reinsert a breathing tube because his airway had swelled, along with his head. He wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

Patricia said her husband of 56 years hasn’t had any surgeries yet, though she said doctors hope they can enter surgery next week. She said Ralph faces six more weeks in the hospital, and she said that is a rather rough estimate.

The explosion, investigators say, was caused by sewage gas. A line to the septic tank was uncapped, resulting in a buildup of explosive gas. Investigators say when Ralph flicked on a light switch, it exploded. She says it wasn’t the switch.

Pat described the explosion as “a big fireball coming at me.”

A window frame hit Patricia as she was turning in the air. A cowboy hat she was wearing flew off. One side of the frame hit her arm and wrist, and the other struck the back of her head behind her ear, her neck and her back. She said she was running around afterward in shock before she called 911. Firefighters from Freeborn, Hartland, Manchester and Alden doused the flames.

He was taken by helicopter to Regions Hospital. She was taken by ambulance to Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea.

She is in St. Paul with her husband. The house north of Freeborn was about to close for a sale. They reside in Albert Lea, and family and friends are taking care of their house in Albert Lea. She has pills she is taking for her injuries, but otherwise is sleeping when Ralph sleeps. He, too, is 75.

Through the misfortune, she has retained a sense of humor. Regarding her flight through the air, the woman said, with a chuckle, “I wasn’t no Mary Poppins. I didn’t have no umbrella to bring me down.”

At the same, she is thankful. Most of all, she is thankful her husband survived.

“He was so lucky that he isn’t dead,” she said a number of times.

Because various reports about the explosion made news across the country, some mentioning an incorrect hospital, Patricia wants people to know their correct address for mailing cards. It is:

Ralph Yotter, 5N

Regions Hospital/The Burn Center

640 Jackson St.

St. Paul, MN 55101-2595

Patricia said they haven’t spoken about the next steps for the Freeborn property, except to talk with an insurance adjuster and to an investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

The Yotters have six grown children and multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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