RIVER FALLS — A 75-year-old woman died following a house explosion Monday night in the 400 block of River Hills Road, according to authorities.
Martha Gaustad, one of two people at home when the residence exploded, died after being transported to the hospital. The other victim, identified by police as 42-year-old Kari Gaustad, was in stable condition as of Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 2, according to River Falls Police Chief Gordon Young.
The investigation into the cause of the explosion was ongoing, Young said.
A GoFundMe fundraising campaign was started Tuesday by neighbor Marlayna Diel to help the Gaustad family with funeral and medical costs, as well as cover housing and other basic necessities.
GoFundMe: House Explosion Leaves Family in Desperate Need (link is external)
Diel said she and her family were taken in by neighbors after evacuating their house due to the explosion.
“It was incredible to watch my neighborhood come together to help in any way possible,” she told the Star-Observer.
Neighbors helped get the two residents to safety immediately following the explosion, according to an earlier city of River Falls news release. One was transported to Regions Hospital in the Twin Cities and the other to River Falls Area Hospital.
Among the good Samaritans Monday night was Travis Ridley, who said he was changing out of his work clothes when his house started to shake.
“Grabbed my kid and ran downstairs as I thought we were having an earthquake,” Ridley said. But when he stepped outside he heard a neighbor across the street yelling that a family member was still inside the burning house.
He and other neighbors tried to get the victim out of the house, but he said her oxygen tank prevented them from moving her. They eventually got the tank free and carried her out just before flames engulfed the home, Ridley said.
Other eyewitnesses in the residential neighborhood told the Star-Observer they heard a boom followed by their door being blown open and their house shaking.
A steady stream of utility and city vehicles were seen around the area on Tuesday morning.
This story was updated 8:15 p.m. Feb. 2, 2021.