Gary Lano, one of six owners of Lano Equipment Inc., in Ramsey, MN, sat at his desk one late December morning and felt a tremor instantly followed by a huge bang.
“At first I thought that it came from behind. It sounded like something heavy fell in our shop” Lano recalled.
Then he glanced up from his paper work and gazed out the company’s huge glass windows across the highway. A towering plume of dust and debris rose before him. Lano realized that the one story, brick office building located several hundred feet across the highway from his office had blown apart.
“Watching the building implode looked like something out of Hollywood with the exception that real people were inside the building,” Lano said somberly. “My first thought was how many lives were just lost; I could not even imagine anyone inside surviving.”
The blast obliterated the Riverview Community Bank of Ostego, which leased space in the building. The blast killed three women working inside the building. Lano Equipment employees assisted emergency workers in the rescue of a fourth victim trapped under the cover of broken bricks, blast debris and dust.
Amazingly, a nearby building sitting within feet of the bank building, suffered very little damaged. On the other side of the blast site, across from a small parking lot, sat a restaurant, which remained untouched from the blast.
Authorities suspect natural gas may have caused the blast but have not ruled out other causes.
Lano employees reacted quickly to the thundering blast. They ran across four-lane State Highway 10 to search for victims. At the same time, motorists pulled off the road to help in the search and rescue mission, Lano said.
Lano employee Gabe Haley returned to the shop and asked Lano’s permission to take a couple of excavators across the street.
“Absolutely,” Lano replied.
“The next thing I saw was a firefighter stopping traffic and two Daewoo excavators crossing Highway 10, along with a Bobcat Track Loader. Terry and Ryan Sabre, father and son, were running the excavators almost non-stop,” he added.
Fire fighters arrived within minutes and cleared the site of all non-emergency personnel. They asked the Sabres to remain and run the Daewoo equipment to remove blast debris hand loaded into the buckets, and lift heavier debris sitting on top of the victims.
With an isolated fire growing, local fire crews and Lano rescuers knew they had to act quickly.
“We could hear the surviving victim yell, ’its getting hotter,’” Ryan Sabre said. “We were pulling back walls that [the fire department] were worried about falling back on to the fire fighters working in the crater.”
Fire fighters brought the fire under control and pulled the lone survivor from the debris within 30 minutes. The Sabres continued to run the equipment –– Solar 140 and Solar 75 excavators and a Bobcat T250 skid steer –– to cut and remove the heavier debris during the search and recovery efforts of the remaining victims, Sabre said.
The Sabres worked the site until approximately 3 p.m. when a crew from Landwehr Construction arrived.
Landwehr Construction, located in St. Cloud, MN, is a 105 year-old company that provides excavating, site development, demolition, box culvert/utility installation, crane services and environmental remediation services.
“The old adage, ’employees make the company,’ I am proud to say that this adage sprung into action on this very tragic day,” Lano said.
When news of the blast spread, customers called into the Lano shop to offer help and to make sure everyone was OK, Lano said. “So, our thanks go out to them.”
Lano Equipment Inc. is a second-generation, family-owned and operated equipment dealership started by four brothers in 1946. It has two, 16,000 sq. ft. locations, one at Ramsey and the other at Shakopee. Both towns are located in the greater St. Paul/Minneapolis metro region.
Lano Equipment carries Bobcat, Daewoo, Pace, Kubota, JCB and Felling equipment.
Lano brothers Gary, Rod and Brad manage the Ramsey location. Their cousins, and also brothers, Joe Jr., Roger and Kurt run the Shakopee location. All represent the second generation of the family business.
With 40 employees and approximately 200 pieces of equipment at each location and a growing business, Lano will soon open another store in Corcoran, also located within the St. Paul/Minneapolis metro region.
(This story also can be found on Construction Equipment Guide’s Web site at www.cegltd.com.) CEG