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Four people were killed and several others seriously injured in an explosion that destroyed a duplex on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation Thursday afternoon.

The explosion in the East Ridge neighborhood led to a desperate search for survivors.

Richard Greenwald, a tribal council member representing Pine Ridge Village, said four fatalities had been confirmed as of 6 p.m. Thursday. One elderly man and one elderly woman died in one side of the duplex, while two young women died in the other side. He did not have their ages.

Of the injured, Greenwald said three were flown to hospitals outside Pine Ridge. One adult man was taken to Rapid City, one young female to Sioux Falls and another young female to Scottsbluff, Neb.

Two other individuals were being treated at the Pine Ridge Hospital, Greenwald said in a phone interview.

Oglala Sioux Tribe spokesperson Kevin Yellow Bird Steele said the explosion happened around 3 p.m. in an East Ridge home, about half a mile from the Pine Ridge town center.

“We had a gas leak in one of the houses, it was a duplex house that exploded,” Steele said by phone. “While the tenants were trying to find the leak, the house — it exploded.”

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At about 4:45 p.m., Steele said emergency responders from Pine Ridge, Martin and Rushville, Neb. were still busy searching the wreckage for survivors.

Facebook posts from residents in the area described a large boom that shook nearby buildings, and caused a plume of smoke that arose from the site.

A neighbor, who lives two houses away from the duplex, said the explosion in the East Ridge Housing area happened sometime after 2 p.m. Thursday. She was at home watching television when she was startled by the explosion, which she said shook her TV and pictures on the wall.

The woman, who declined to reveal her name, said she quickly went outside and saw people running to the site.

“All the neighbors and bystanders just started helping digging people out,” the woman said in a phone interview from the Oglala Sioux tribal office, where she was making a report on the explosion late Thursday afternoon.  

She said the duplex was completely destroyed in the explosion. “There’s nothing there,” she said.

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