Four people were killed in two separate fires early Thursday morning in the small northeast Nebraska town of Laurel, and foul play is suspected, according to the Nebraska State Patrol.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon in the Cedar County town, Col. John Bolduc, superintendent of the state patrol, said authorities responded to an explosion at a home at 209 Elm St. at 3 am, where they found one person dead.
While crews were working to put out the fire, a second fire at a home at 503 Elm St. was reported. Three people were found dead at that location.
Bolduc said the state patrol is investigating the connection between the two fires. I have asked anyone with information or security camera footage to contact the patrol at 402-479-4921.
Bolduc said witnesses saw a “silver sedan driven by a black male” leaving the town of Laurel, headed westbound on US 20. Investigators discovered evidence of accelerants at the scenes and believe the suspect or suspects could have been burned in the incidents.
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The names of the four people who were killed were not released Thursday afternoon.
Officials with hazmat suits were observed walking toward the scene on Thursday morning. The community of fewer than 1,000 people is about 40 miles west of Sioux City, Iowa.
Douglas Furlich, who lives blocks away from both locations where fires reportedly broke out, said he heard an explosion call while listening to the police scanner as he watched TV around 3:30 am Thursday.
Shortly after, he said, the town’s sirens began to wail, signaling a fire or rescue call.
“I went and took a drive to see, and they still have — at the Third and Elm site — they still have that blocked off; you can’t get within a half a block of it. And there’s a blue tarp that has been erected around the portion of the yard.”
This is a developing story. Stay with JournalStar.com for updates.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism