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Two Pulled From Detriot Store Rubble

Michigan Explosion

Dec. 29: Emergency personnel are on the scene after an explosion and collapse at the William C. Franks furniture store in Wayne, Mich. (AP)

Wayne City Manager John Zech says workers have pulled a man's body from the wreckage of a furniture store explosion near Detroit. One person is still missing.

Zech said rescuers found the body of 64-year-old James Zell of Westland, Mich., about 7:15 p.m. and his family has been notified.

Zech said the second person still missing but searchers feel they are close.

The massive blast at about 9 a.m. the William C. Franks Furniture store was felt as much as a mile away. The owner, Paul Franks, was pulled from the rubble and was in critical condition.A family-owned furniture store in suburban Detroit exploded and collapsed in what appeared to be a natural gas explosion Wednesday, trapping three people in the rubble.

Rescuers pulled the store's owner from the debris and he is in critical condition, Zech told a news conference. Search and rescue teams continued to hunt for one more. 

"They're dealing with a lot of debris," said Inkster Deputy Police Chief Hilton Napoleon, who was assisting other officers in below-freezing temperatures at the scene. "They've got to be careful so they don't cause any more explosions. You don't know if there are any other flammables in there."

Groups of firefighters entered the building four and five at a time, scraping away at the rubble using long poles with hooks on the end. Video footage shot from TV helicopters hovering over the scene showed dozens of rescuers working on and around the remains of the store.

"It's a hand-to-hand search looking for potential victims," Dell said, adding that rescuers are being careful for fear of further collapse.

Police evacuated homes and businesses near the store in Wayne, some 15 miles west-southwest of Detroit. The massive blast at about 9 a.m. was felt as much as a mile away. Windows were shattered at nearby businesses. The one-story once-sprawling building was reduced to nothing more than a pile of wood, crumbled drywall, and twisted metal with broken bits of furniture scattered about. A bureau drawer could be seen.

"It was like `ba-boom!"' said 47-year-old Lisa Johns, who rushed to the furniture store from her home nearby.

Johns said she was watching television in bed when she felt the explosion. "It sounded like a bomb," she said. "The power went off and came back on two or three minutes later."

"We're pretty sure natural gas is involved," Consumers Energy spokeswoman Debra Dodd said. "We're working to get it shut off."

Jennifer Gietzen, 36, who co-manages an auto repair shop with her husband about a block from the furniture store, said the smell of natural gas was "overwhelming."

When she and her husband got to the scene, there was a small fire burning in the middle of what once was the store and water spewing, perhaps from a burst pipe, onto a nearby truck. Three hours later, the building still was smoldering.

University of Michigan Hospital spokeswoman Christy Barnes told The Associated Press that Paul Franks had been taken to the Ann Arbor facility after the explosion and that he is in critical condition. Zech said Franks' father founded the store.

A person who was driving by the store when it exploded was being treated at Oakwood Annapolis Hospital and was in stable condition, hospital spokeswoman Paula Rivera-Kerr said.

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