A mysterious explosion rocked Laurel, Nebraska, just after 3 a.m. on Thursday and caused multiple deaths, spawning an active investigation from the Nebraska State Patrol.
Multiple businesses and other buildings were locked down after the blast, in which four people have been found dead at two separate properties.
Authorities are searching for a suspect. Witnesses have reported that gunshots were heard ringing out prior to the explosion at the properties.
According to News Channel Nebraska, one person was found dead at the first location on Elm Street and the three remaining victims were found at a second location just a few blocks away. Both properties were then set on fire, officials said.
“Multiple witnesses reported seeing or hearing an explosion at approximately 3:00 a.m.,” the outlet reported. “While firefighters were responding to the first scene, they were called to the second home for the second fire. Officials with hazmat suits were seen walking toward the scene by the middle of Thursday morning.”
Speaking to the reporters on Thursday, Colonel John Bolduc of the Nebraska State Patrol said that there were two incidents on the same street involving fire.
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The victim’s identities have not yet been released by the investigators.
“We have two fires with deceased people three blocks apart. It would be a stretch to say that there’s no connection, but it’s very early in the investigation. We hope to find those answers in the coming days,” Bolduc said, according to NCN.
“We are not categorizing it as anything at this point, we have multiple crime scenes with four dead.” Col. Bolduc added: “Fire investigators believe that accelerants may have been used in both of these fires.”
They also believe anyone who was inside the homes at this time may have been burned. Therefore it is possible that our suspect, or suspects, received burn injuries during these incidents,” he said, according to The Daily Mail.
Regarding the lockdown, Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda told News Channel Nebraska, “It’s a tight-knit community, about 1,000 people, a very safe community,” Koranda said. “I think people just need to be diligent. If they see something out of the ordinary or something they’re not used to, please contact the State Patrol.”
“It shakes everybody up,” Koranda said. “It also affects the EMS that respond to the fire. It affects everybody.”
Regarding the suspect or suspects, Siouxland Proud reported that Koranda added, “We don’t know for sure if people knew each other, but everyone knows everyone in this small community,” he said.
The Nebraska State Patrol, Laurel Police Department and Cedar County Sheriff’s Office responded to the mysterious blast alongside fire crews.
WATCH: Col. Bolduc and Sherriff Koranda held a joint press conference on Thursday afternoon to update the public.
Laurel is a small town with a population of about 1,000 about 40 miles west of Sioux City.
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