Explosion at Sartell Paper Mill Kills 1, Injures 5

The Monday fire also resulted in substantial damage to the plant; a cause has not yet been determined.

One person was killed and five were injured in a Monday explosion at a paper mill in downtown Sartell, City Manager Patti Gartland confirmed Tuesday.

The explosion occurred at 11:21 a.m. and resulted in a large fire inside the mill, which is owned by Memphis, Tennessee-based Verso Paper Corporation.

At a Tuesday morning media briefing at Sartell City Hall, Plant Manager Matt Archambeau identified the deceased as Albany resident and Verso employee Jon Maus. Meanwhile, four of the injured workers were treated at St. Cloud Hospital and released Monday; the fifth injured worker did not seek medical help.

“At this point in time, we don’t know the cause of the incident, but I can tell you that the preliminary reports on damage are very substantial,” Archambeau said at the briefing. “And we’ll be investigating . . . to determine the cause.”

Sartell Fire Chief Ken Heim said at the briefing that there have been some indications that an air compressor exploded.

Firefighting operations were still underway at the plant as of Tuesday morning. Heim said that the fire was 90 percent contained at that time, but there were still some “hot spots and flare-ups.”

Heim added that the fire mostly affected the warehouse area of the plant, which contained finished paper that was ready to be shipped. The area where paper is manufactured remained largely unaffected, he said.

According to a late Tuesday morning report in the St. Cloud Times, firefighters—with the help of a structural engineer—were trying to determine how to retrieve paper rolls from the back of the warehouse and fight the fire from inside the building.

The Verso paper mill in Sartell employs 259 and is the second-largest employer in the city, which has a population of about 16,000. Roughly 50 people were working at the plant when the explosion occurred.