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1 dead, 1 hospitalized after home explosion in River Falls

Police chief says a 75-year-old mother died and her 42-year-old daughter is still in the hospital with significant burns.

RIVER FALLS, Wis. — One person has died after what police are calling an explosion and fire at a home in River Falls, Wisconsin Monday evening.

According to a press release from police, River Falls Police and Fire Departments responded to reports of a fire in the 400 block of River Hills Road. 

Upon arrival first responders learned two people were in the home at the time of the explosion, and that neighbors helped pull them out. 

On Tuesday afternoon, Police Chief Gordon Young wrote in an email, “It is with regret that we report one of the two victims of the Feb. 1 house explosion, Martha Gaustad, 75, has died. The second victim, Kari Gaustad, 42, remains hospitalized in stabilized condition.”

Chief Young says the two are mother and daughter. 

Emily Keating is a neighbor who lives several houses down and is also an emergency room nurse. When she heard the explosion, she ran to the scene and helped load Martha into an ambulance.

"It was crazy for everybody, very traumatic," said Keating. "To see her, it was pretty sad, she looked like she was in really rough shape." Keating said Martha was burned and struggling to breath. 

(Video courtesy Zach Allen)

Daylight shows little left of the home besides a pile of rubble. KARE 11's Kiya Edwards says a home next door sustained some damage from the incident as well. 

Neighbor Dean Olson says he was in the midst of his nightly rituals, watching the news and doing a bit of reading, when the home exploded. 

"Head the boom, took a while to figure out what it was, came outside and saw some flames, and just took off from there," he recalled. "The first thing, it's like 'Oh boy, I hope they got out.'"

Olson says by the time he reached the scene the home had already collapsed. He explained that the owners had done significant work and remodeling to the property in the last year or so. "I know they've been fixing it up, and it's just sad to see something like this happen." 

Chief Young said that the cause of the explosion is still under investigation at this time, but does not appear to be criminal in nature. 

A GoFundMe has been set up by a neighbor to help assist the victims.

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