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PRINCETON TOWNSHIP, MINN. — Two people were killed in an explosion that rocked an occupied home north of Princeton, Minn., before dawn Tuesday and was heard more than 20 miles away, the Mille Lacs County Sheriff's Office said.

The blast at the double-wide mobile home in the 8200 block of 52nd Street prompted several 911 calls shortly before 4 a.m., said chief sheriff's deputy Aaron Evenson.

Evenson said the "single-family residence ... appeared to have exploded with a large debris field, which was partially on fire."

He said people 23 miles away from the scene reported hearing the blast.

Evenson identified the residents who died as Katherine A. Kreger, 61, and her husband, Royce E. Kreger Jr., 60.

The property owner told the Star Tribune that he has been renting it out to a "very, very dear friend of mine and his wife."

Stuart Bryan, who lives in Buffalo, Minn., said as he was driving to the scene Tuesday that he has owned the home for roughly 15 years and has "never had a problem or an issue, and boom, it just blows up."

Bryan said that Royce Kreger worked as a welder, and he moved in with his wife nearly five years ago.

"He was fantastic," Bryan said. "He took better care of the place than if I lived there."

The Kregers' dog did not survive the explosion, said Sheriff's Office investigator James Gallion.

There was no preliminary word on what led up to the blast, which is being investigated by the State Fire Marshal's Office.

Evenson did note that when deputies arrived, a propane tank was shooting propane into the air.

Royce Kreger, who typically started work at 5 a.m., was found in the basement, possibly indicating he was checking for an odor, Evenson said.

The debris field is easily 100 by 100 yards, Evenson said, "a very large blast area. There was a lot of power." Cleanup will be a "large project," he added.

"This is mass destruction," Evenson said, adding that in his 20 years, "this is the largest explosion I've seen."

The scene of the blast was at the end of a long dirt road, where debris was spread over a broad area. Pink insulation and pieces of wood clung to tree branches.

A black metal frame was all that resembled a home. A garage-like structure about 10 yards away was still standing, with one door caved in.

"As you can probably see already, it's a mess," Gallion said.

The debris field from the explosion is more than 100 yards by 100 yards, said chief sheriff’s deputy Aaron Evenson.
The debris field from the explosion is more than 100 yards by 100 yards, said chief sheriff’s deputy Aaron Evenson.

Shari L. Gross, Star Tribune