‘A feeling of closeness:’ Church members in Sun Prairie pray for healing after deadly explosion

SUN PRAIRIE -- Church services were held Sunday, July 15 in Sun Prairie for the first time since the tragic loss of Captain Cory Barr.

The 34-year-old Barr was killed Tuesday evening, July 10 when a contractor punctured a natural gas line in downtown Sun Prairie, causing an explosion and fire that destroyed at least two businesses and heavily damaged others. Thousands came out Saturday to honor Captain Barr as a funeral was held at Sun Prairie High School.

On Sunday, parishioners came together to pray for healing.

Joann Benisch

“I sensed a feeling of closeness among the members this morning," said Joann Benisch at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Sun Prairie.

Benisch, a member of the congregation, said the tragedy has weighed heavily on everyone in the community.

“The whole city really just pulled together. Our neighbor across the street was up all night shuttling evacuees," said Benisch.

Matt Weber

“My wife and I live just a few blocks from where the explosion took place, and we were evacuated along with, I don’t know how many hundreds of other people," said Matt Weber at Our Savior's Lutheran Church.

The charity didn’t stop there.

“When we got evacuated, we came up to the church and opened the doors for people who needed a place to go temporarily," said Weber.

Tim Hansen, the man responsible for leading his congregation through the healing process, was the one on the guitar Sunday morning.

Tim Hansen

“I’m doing fine. I suppose more time spent checking in with parishioners on how they’re doing," said Pastor Hansen.

Hansen said it was impossible to have a service on Sunday and not talk about what happened and the tragic loss of Captain Barr.

"My bringing it up was to talk about -- people in this community got a glimpse of what that could look like," said Hansen.

But in loss, his sermon stressed finding the silver lining -- people helping people.

For those outside of Sun Prairie who want to help, Hansen offered this advice: Don’t forget to slow down, and ask people how they’re doing.

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Authorities said Captain Barr went to the scene to help evacuate people from the area before the massive explosion and fire erupted. Mourners at Saturday's service described Barr as humble, devoted and blessed.

He leaves behind his wife Abby and 3-year-old twin girls.

Meanwhile, Bear Communications, a company building a fiber optics network, has identified the subcontractor working in the area before the explosion. Bear Communications on Friday said when VC Tech Inc.'s employees smelled gas, they notified authorities of the gas leak and helped evacuate people before the explosion happened.

Verizon Wireless has said it had contracted with Bear Communications for the fiber optics project. In a statement, Bear Communications says no one from its company was present on site when the gas line began leaking.

A contact for VC Tech could not be found. A search of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration database found no safety violations by VC Tech in the past five years.

Eleven other people, including five other firefighters and a police officer, were hurt in the blast.