‘It’s bad!’ Officials release 911 calls from deadly Sun Prairie natural gas explosion

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SUN PRAIRIE -- Dane County officials released on Tuesday, July 17 audio from more than 20 phone calls to 911 made on the day of a natural gas explosion in downtown Sun Prairie.

Authorities say a construction crew struck a gas main in downtown Sun Prairie on July 10, resulting in the explosion.

Fire Captain Cory Barr was killed as he helped evacuate people prior to the blast. Eleven other people were hurt. Six buildings were destroyed.

Bear Communications has said subcontractor VC Tech Inc. was installing a fiber optics network in the area before the explosion. It's not clear if that crew struck the main.

Sun Prairie Police Lt. Kevin Konopacki told reporters during a news conference Monday that investigators are days away from deciding whether to recommend criminal charges. He declined further comment.

CLICK the audio players below to listen to the 911 calls

Below are transcripts from some of the calls:

Call 1:

Caller: "Oh my gosh."

Operator: "You’re OK. Take your time, What’s the cross street?"

Operator: "Tell me exactly what happened."

Caller: "We’re doing construction work and we hit the gas main."

Operator: "OK -- so you hit a gas line?"

Caller: "Yes a gas line."

Operator: "Is the gas leak inside or outside? Outside, thank you."

Caller: "You can hear it and smell it. It’s bad."

Operator: "I understand. We have the fire department coming."

Operator: "What is the gas coming from?"

Caller: "It’s coming from the ground."

Operator: "Is it a tank or line?"

Operator: "A tank or a line?"

Caller: "It’s a line. It’s coming from a line."

Operator: "And what type of line is it?"

Caller: "It’s, I don’t know."

Operator: "Understood. Is it  anyone sick or injured?"

Caller: "No."

Operator: "Do not use, turn on or turn off any electrical devices. Do not use any open flame or anything that could cause a spark. Do not start a vehicle and abandon all vehicles and equipment and then leave the are immediately and take others with you. Move at least 1,000 feet away and uphill towards the hill and do not hang up the phone."

Call 2:

Operator: "A building blew up?"

Caller: "That’s what it looks like."

Operator: "Bristol and E. Main?"

Caller: "It’s right around the corner. I’m by the diner here."

Operator: "Are you in the area still?"

Caller: "Yeah."

Operator: "I have quite a few fire trucks and officers out there. Do you see them?"

Caller: "Yes I see them."

Call 3:

Caller: "There was just a huge explosion."

Operator: "Tell me exactly what happened."

Caller: "I just pulled in the driveway, walking in the house and all the sudden, I’m on the end of South Street, probably about a half-mile from Main and my whole house shook."

Operator: "OK. OK."

Caller: "A huge boom."

Operator: "Did you see anything?"

Caller: "A huge muffin cloud."

Call 4:

Caller: "There was just a loud explosion. There was a loud explosion and a big puff of smoke and it looked like a gas smoke."

Caller: "It was loud. I heard it all the way down at my house."

Operator: "And you thought it was coming from Commercial?"

Caller: "It looked like it was coming from Commercial. It’s down Main Street."

Caller: "Oh wow. It’s the whole downtown Sun Prairie. It’s the whole downtown Sun Prairie -- right by the fire station."

Operator: "The whole downtown Sun Prairie -- right by the fire station what?"

Caller: "That’s where, no, the corner of Windsor and Main."

Operator: "The corner of Windsor and Main?"

Caller: "Yes, there’s a blaze going on right now."

Call 5:

Caller: "I live in Sun Prairie and off in the distance, I saw an extremely big explosion. It shook the whole building that I live in – the apartment complex. A huge cloud of smoke and now there’s (inaudible) in both directions."

Call 6:

Caller: "Hi, yes, downtown Sun Prairie -- it looks like an explosion or something like it. We’re probably about five blocks away and our house shook and a huge fire cloud, smoke cloud. I just wanted to make sure someone called it in."

Operator: "Yes, we actually have fire department and officers on scene during the explosion, so we are getting things together right now, figuring out what’s going on out there -- but we are aware of it and have plenty of help on scene and en route."

Call 7/8:

Caller: "I just heard a huge huge bang. I don’t know if a building just blew up? It’s on fire on Main Street."

Call 9:

Caller: "It’s Main Street Sun Prairie. A building just blew up."

Operator: "OK -- give me an address."

Caller: "I don’t have an exact address because we’re by Market Street and it happened a block away on Main Street. We just saw something blow up."

Caller: "Market Street Diner -- when it blew up. The fire trucks are already coming there."

Operator: "You know the fire trucks are already on their way?"

Caller: "I can hear them."

Caller: "It was a big loud boom."

Operator: "Do you know what building it was?"

Caller: "No I’m not sure because I’m in the back of the Market Street Diner and I can only see the back of the building."

Caller: "It looks like it’s that corner building."

Call 10:

Caller: "There’s a large explosion in the downtown area of Sun Prairie. In Sun Prairie. It sounded like it was coming from the downtown area, which is east of my location, probably two blocks. It was huge. I saw the explosion, a cloud of smoke."

Caller: "I was standing out front and I could feel the shock waves."

Call 11:

Operator: "We do have help on scene and taking care of this. We appreciate you calling. Thank you so much."

Call 12:

Operator: "What’s the address of the emergency?"

Caller: "I’m reporting a (inaudible)."

Operator: "What’s your name? Are you in Sun Prairie?"

Caller: "Yes."

Operator: "It does look like we have reports of this and we have crews working to take care of this."

Call 13:

Operator: "911."

Caller: "I just heard an explosion. Felt the repercussion up on (inaudible). You can see smoke just south of this. It was south -- down toward the main part of town."

Operator: "Looks like a gas leak caused an explosion. We do have crews down there."

Call 14:

Operator: "911. What’s your emergency?"

Caller: "It looks like a building blown up. It’s propane. It’s like four blocks from my house. I can hear sirens now."

Operator: "We do have help on the way. Thanks for calling that in. Bye now."

Call 15:

Operator: "911."

Caller: "It appears to be somewhere near East Side School and it appears on Derby Drive there was some kind of explosion."

Operator: "Do you know the area it came from?"

Caller: "It made our house shake and right now I see a smoke in the area of East Side School."

Operator: "So you heard loud bang and now you see a cloud of smoke?"

Caller: "Yes."

Operator: "What color is the smoke?"

Caller: "Gray. I can see it over the tree tops."

Operator: "Alrighty. Thank you."

Call 16: 

Operator: "911."

Caller: "There is no address. We just heard a loud boom coming from somewhere -- I don’t know where it's coming from but it smells like gas in my complex."

Operator: "And you smell gas over on Sunfield Street?"

Operator: "There was a gas line hit and Windsor and Main. They are working on it. I will let them know you smell gas in your area over there."

Call 17, 18, 19:

Caller: "We heard a loud explosion in our neighborhood. All of our neighbors are out and trying to figure out what’s going on?"

Operator: "Where did it sound like it came from?"

Caller: "Somewhere outside of our house. Several meters from us."

Operator: "Looks like a gas main on Bristol and Main just exploded."

Operator: "911."

Caller: "All of our neighbors are outside. It’s Bristol. North Bristol.  There was a big sonic boom. It shook every frickin’ house. We got everybody out on the street wondering what the hell happened!"

Operator: "911."

Caller: "Heard a big bang…"

Operator: "Near Bristol and Main?"

Caller: "Oh my God!" (Wailing)

Operator: "Take a deep breath."

Caller: "I’m sorry ma’am. I was just standing and it went boom!"

Operator: "I understand this is extremely scary."

Caller: Everything in my bedroom has been blown. My kitchen has been blown. The living room and my kitchen and bedroom. The man across the hall from me, everything is out of his house. It all blew up."

Operator: "Something exploded there too?"

Caller: "Yes. Something exploded. I heard it go boom."

Operator: "Stay on the line with me. Stay on the line with me. Take a deep breath."

Caller: Oh my."

Operator: "Do you think the building at your house as well as the one next door? The force from the other explosion that ruined your house?"

Caller: "Yes. They didn’t tell use to get out of our apartment!"

Operator: "You’re not out of your apartment?"

Caller: "No!"

Operator: "I need you guys to get outside."

Call 21:

Caller: "There might have been a little explosion or something."

Call 22-25:

Caller: "Union Street. Lots of black smoke. Just heard a loud explosion — maybe in Main and Bristol."

Operator: "He’s in the fire department. Large explosion that shook his house."

Caller: "Not sure if it’s an emergency or not. Carriage Hills Park. Explosion. Saw the police line."

Caller: "Something blew up. Oh my God. Somebody’s apartment blew up? What is that?"

Caller: "Major boom. What is going on? Oh man. It must have been an explosion of gas or something."

Call 26:

Caller: "There was an explosion, and there’s this dark smoke and I don’t hear any fire trucks or anything going down to the site. We heard the boom and I thought someone hit the house, and then huge black plume of smoke."

Call 27:

Caller: "We had an explosion down here on Main Street. I got windows blown and doors blown open and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I can get out of my apartment yet. They’re fighting a fire outside."

Call 28:

Caller: "I just heard this boom and I can see smoke coming from -- and it looks like a house blew up. There’s black smoke over here. A house blew up. My neighbor came out too and we heard the boom. I was in bed and my bed shook."

Call 29:

Caller: "The whole building shook like it was an earthquake or something. I ran outside and my neighbor did It was really strange. Somebody said they smelled gas but I said we don’t have gas in this building."

Call 30:

Caller: "I live on Pennsylvania Avenue. We heard gunshots. I didn’t actually hear it. My window was open and the door shook all of a sudden, and my mom said 'did you hear the gunshot?'"

Officials on Tuesday released this list of businesses destroyed in the explosion:

  • The Barr House
  • Razor Sharp Screen Printing
  • American Realtors
  • American Family Insurance
  • Glass Nickel Pizza
  • Watertown Chop House


Captain Barr was laid to rest on July 14. He left behind a wife and twin daughters, age 3.


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