Dozens of Siouxlanders are left without a home just weeks before the holidays after a fire broke out at the Ida Apartments late Thursday night.
Sioux City Fire Rescue was called to a structure fire at the Ida Apartments located at 1901 Pierce Street. The fire was reported shortly before 9 p.m.
As of 11 p.m., the fire had not been contained and crews were still throwing heavy streams of water on flames coming from the roof and third-story windows.
"We had crews go in and try to they went up to the top floor to get into the attic space and try to make an initial attack," said Sioux City Fire Captain, Dustin Johnson. "The attic space was well involved at that point. So at that point, we withdrew all of our personnel after we made sure everybody was out of the apartment from top to bottom."
The building was evacuated and Sioux City Police and Sioux City Fire tell Siouxland News they believe all residents are out. Firefighters were able to do a thorough search of the building when they arrived on the scene.
Sioux City Transit buses were called in to help keep evacuated residents warm and out of the snow. Volunteers were setting up a church for the more than two dozen residents to stay for the night until more permanent housing could be arranged.
Two displaced residents tell Siouxland News that having this happen just before Christmas makes it hurt even more. "Now we ain't got no place to live. I lost everything in my apartment, all my Christmas gifts. I lost everything. Can't go get my money and stuff too," said Roy Wagner.
"I lost everything," said Richard Hull. "I'm talking about. I got like at least $10,000 worth of stuff up in there."
"I don't know at this point," Wagner said, "they're talking about having us live in a church for a little bit. But I have a medical dog and I just don't know what to do anymore.
Sioux City Fire Rescue says they won't be able to determine a cause until the fire is out and they will remain on the scene throughout the night until everything is extinguished. They don't know the extent of the fire damage to the entire building at this time but did say that the attic and third-floor apartments are heavily damaged.
"Some of the top floor apartments and that attic space are going to have heavy damage to it from the fire and also from the water," said Captain Johnson, "and so with the amount of gallons per minute that we're putting in this building right now we're gonna have a significant water damage."
Johnson said it could have been much worse had the residents not been able to evacuate quickly and safely. "The big thing I just want to stress to just make sure everybody has, especially this time of the year is to have working smoke alarms inside your apartment units or houses," he said. "If you need them. We can definitely come onto your house and install them it's free of charge. We just want to make sure everybody's safe."
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LAUREL, NEB. — Nebraska State Patrol made an arrest in Laurel, Nebraska early Friday morning, just 24 hours after four people were killed at two separate crime scenes.
In a news conference in Laurel Friday morning, Col. John Bolduc of the Nebraska State Patrol, said one person has been arrested for the murders of four people early Thursday morning.
After finding evidence at the scene at both homes after the fires were put out, NSP investigators determined that 42-year-old Jason Jones, who lived across the street from the first home at 206 Elm Street, was a probable suspect in the homicides. Police made entry into Jones' home at 2:30 a.m. Friday and took him into custody. Jones was found with severe burns on his body, investigators say, and was airlifted to St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Lincoln, Neb. He is described to be in serious condition.
He was arrested on suspicion of 1st-degree homicide, 1st-degree arson and four counts of use of a firearm to commit a felony, but has not yet been officially charged. All victims were found with probable gunshot wounds.
"We are still working to process the evidence that we collected at the (arrest) scene, it is still very early in this investigation," said Col. Bolduc."
Watch the news conference from Nebraska State Patrol here.
According to court documents obtained by Siouxland News, authorities were alerted to a reported explosion at 209 Elm Street at 3:11 a.m. Thursday, August 4th. First responders found a woman inside the back door of the home who was suffering from two gunshot wounds. She was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later. First responders also noted burn marks on the floor, walls, and furniture inside the home indicating a fire had happened, they could also smell gasoline and smoke in the home and a red fuel can was found inside the front door followed by a discolored trail on the floor indicating the use of an accelerant.
Later Thursday morning, authorities received a call about smoke coming from a home a few blocks away at 503 Elm Street. Fire officials on the scene found soot and smoke damage at the home when they arrived and discovered three people inside the home with gunshot wounds. They were also pronounced dead. Court documents indicate a pry bar was used to gain entrance to the home and the pry bar was found inside the back door.
Court records indicate a magazine to a firearm was also found inside the 2nd home near the back door with a black Ruger 57 firearm located on the living room floor that was registered to Jones. A Molotov cocktail was also located inside the home indicating the fire was also intentionally set.
With evidence from both crime scenes, investigators got a search warrant for 209 Elm Street, the scene of the first fire, where they located a black backpack with several receipts dated August 3rd for Cubby's Gas Station in Laurel. The credit card linked to the receipt purchase was to a card for Jason A. Jones. Another receipt in the backpack was from Fleet Farm in Sioux City for a 6-gallon auto-shutoff gas can, fuel tank and camping backpack and another receipt for Rath's Mini Mart from August 3rd.
Investigators also obtained surveillance footage from Rath's Mini Mart in Laurel where Jones can be seen filling two red gas cans on August 3rd.
Authorities say they are still searching for one firearm that was used at the first home as it is a different caliber than the firearm used and found at the second home.
Nebraska State Patrol has identified the four people who were killed Thursday.
53-year-old Michele Shankles-Ebeling was the first victim at 209 Elm St. She was identified by family members who described her to Siouxland News. "She always had a smile and was a kind soul that made everyone laugh. She will be missed," her family said.
86-year-old Gene Twiford and his wife, 85-year-old Janet Twiford, and their adult daughter, 55-year-old Dana, perished at the 2nd scene, at 209 Elm Street.
"I want to acknowledge the indescribable grief that this community is experiencing right now," said Col. John Bolduc, Nebraska State Patrol during the news conference Friday morning, "and that's going to be compounded by the betrayal of trust that they are going to feel because a community member here is alleged to have committed these crimes.
The last 24 hours have been difficult not only for the community of Laurel, but for the first responders as well. Not only did the fire crews from three communities work to put out two house fires, they also had to carefully preserve the crime scenes and evidence as they worked.
"I have to talk about, what I consider, the heroic efforts of the firefighters who were on the scene here yesterday," Col. Bolduc said. I describe them as heroic because they had a very difficult task." We asked them to put out these fires while preserving the evidence of these crimes," Col. Bolduc said. "They had to adjust their tactics, in order to do that and they did that with great efficiency. Their efforts preserved the evidence that led us directly to the suspect."
Laurel Mayor Keith Knudsen issued a statement to Siouxland News Friday evening about the tragedy in his community. His full statement is as follows:
On behalf of the City of Laurel, we offer the loved ones of those who passed our condolences. We grieve together with them during this difficult time and pray that God will grant them and our community comfort, healing, and strength in the days ahead. The City of Laurel would like to recognize and thank Laurel Fire & Rescue, Laurel Police Department, Cedar County Sheriff’s Office, Cedar County Emergency Management Office, Nebraska State Patrol, State Fire Marshall’s Office, Cedar County Attorney, Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, and the Wayne and Belden Volunteer Fire Departments for the extraordinary measures they took this week to serve and protect the Laurel community. Their strength, compassion, resilience and skill in responding to the series of devastating criminal actions is to be commended. We would also like to thank everyone who has reached out to our community and its residents in any way. Your kind words and thoughtful actions have provided overwhelming support as our community works together to heal from the profound impact of this tragedy.
To see our full coverage from Laurel, visit our story here.
Siouxland News is in Laurel and will be updating this story as new information is confirmed.
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Foul play is suspected after four people were found dead at two separate crime scenes in the small community of Laurel, Nebraska on Thursday.
The Nebraska State Patrol, which is leading the investigation, says that Cedar County received a call at about 3:00 a.m. Thursday morning about an explosion at 209 Elm St. in Laurel. Fire crews found one person dead inside that home.
While first responders were at the first scene, a second fire was reported at 503 Elm St., about three blocks away from the first crime scene. Fire officials found three people dead inside that home while clearing it during the fire.
In a release late Thursday night, Nebraska State Patrol says gunfire is believed to have played a part in both crime scenes. Upon further investigation following the fires, fire investigators say both fires looked to have been started around the same time around 3 a.m.
The houses are three blocks apart and the Nebraska State Patrol says foul play is suspected, though they will not confirm that both crimes were committed by the same individual at this time. The NSP say they believe that accelerants were used in both incidents and anyone inside the homes at the time of the fires received burns.
"We are not categorizing as anything at this point. We have multiple crime scenes we have four dead. We're trying to get to the bottom of it and it's very early in its investigation," said Col. John Bolduc, Nebraska State Patrol.
"It would be a stretch to say there is no connection, but it's very early in the investigation and we hope to find those answers in the coming days." A silver Sedan that witnesses put at the scene was seen leaving Laurel, Nebraska west on Highway 20, driven by a black male. The vehicle may have stopped to pick up a passenger. It is possible that the suspect or suspects have injuries from burns.
WATCH: Nebraska State Patrol provides information on Laurel crime scenes.
Authorities and crime scene investigators will remain on the scene for some time, as fire adds another element to the investigation. "These are very complicated investigations," Col. Bolduc said.
The Cedar County Sheriff was also in Laurel assisting in the investigation, but also assuring the community of Laurel that they are safe. "It's a tight-knit community," said Sheriff Larry Koranda, "it's a very safe community. Everybody knows everybody in this small community."
Incidents like this don’t happen in small towns. That is what those living in Laurel, a town of just over 1,000 people, are saying as their small community is trying to wrap their heads around what has taken place. One neighbor to the second crime scene who wished not to be identified told Siouxland News that she never thought something like this would happen in her neighborhood.
"Incidents like this can shake a community," Col. Bolduc said, "but I want to emphasize we have an astounding public safety team on the scene here with a number of our partners to keep the community safe."
The identities of the victims are not being released at this time, pending notification of the families. Authorities have been talking with local businesses to see if any have surveillance videos that may be relevant.
Sheriff Koranda praised the first responders on the scene, especially the fire crews who are mainly volunteers. "It affects everybody," Sheriff Koranda said, "I'm grateful for what they are doing."
The Nebraska State Patrol is also seeking any information from the public. If you have any information please call 402-479-4921.
The town and businesses in the community did go on lockdown for much of the day as investigators worked the scene.
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SGT. BLUFF, Iowa — RAGBRAI is one of the biggest events in Iowa each year and taking place in the middle of summer runs the risk of one thing, severe weather. And with severe storms slated to pass through northwest Iowa Saturday, RAGBRAI organizers are making sure riders are prepared.
"We are working with our local weather office, which is out of Sioux Falls and Des Moines as they trek through the state. And they are going to give us extra lead time as things pop up so we can safely get people to shelter as that happens."
Sergeant Bluff Fire Chief Anthony Gaul says the town began preparing for severe weather even before official forecasts for the weekend were released.
"We did a final test of our outdoor warning system which is meant to alert people that are outdoors in case of severe weather or disasters," he said. "We have a voice function on that that we tested as well as the tone siren alert."
While Saturday isn't an official ride day, thousands will be in town and camping outdoors.
"The plan right now is, as we follow the same as Sioux City, if a tornado or winds of 70mph or greater are predicted, we will set off the outdoor warning system. If there is severe weather that does not reach that level, we will announce that over the public address feature of that outdoor warning system that covers our town," he said of their plan to warn the thousands of people that will be camping outdoors this weekend. "We also have access to the emergency alert system and Alert Iowa through emergency management."
The City of Sgt. Bluff has storm shelters available and is even asking residents to open their homes as shelters should the need arise by posting signs on their doors.
Ahead of the weekend and beyond Sergeant Bluff, RAGBRAI goers can ride easy knowing Iowa is prepared to keep them safe throughout the journey.
"Our fire district goes out to Old Highway 141 and then Bronson picks that up. And then they will ride through Bronson's fire district, part of Moville's and then into Anthon. So those departments have their own preparations and plans but we have that consistency with the sheriff's office," said Gaul.
And with more thunderstorms possible throughout the week, stay weather aware and look for storm shelters set up by communities along the route. Each town has prepped storm shelters and weather-safe areas for participants should they be needed.
One other way to stay weather aware this weekend and throughout RAGBRAI is to download a weather app to your phone like the Siouxland News weather app which will send alerts to your phone if severe weather is in your area no matter where you are in the state.
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10 p.m. FRIDAY: A small plane has crashed and the pilot was killed near the Wayne, Nebraska airport Friday night during the MayDay STOL Drag Races.
Wayne Mayor Cale Giese confirmed that the crash happened around 6:45 p.m. The drag races were set to take place at the Wayne Airport this weekend.
MayDay STOL Drag Races confirmed that crash and fatality, saying the accident seems to be a result of a "stall spin." The pilot was the only person on the aircraft.
The wrecked aircraft can be seen crashed in a field just off the airport's runway near Highway 35. Two semi-tractors with trailers are blocking much of the scene and law enforcement remains on the premises.
MayDay STOL Drag Races posted on their Facebook Page Friday night that events for the evening had been canceled.
On their Facebook page, MayDay STOL describes the sport as this:
"STOL Drag takes similar skills as in Traditional STOL but pits two pilots' and their planes next to each other and races a course down and back. First to stop without scratching wins. It's a fast paced, heart racing, fun aviation action."
At least 26 pilots were on the roster to participate this weekend. Law enforcement is asking people to stay clear of the area. The NTSB and FAA will be investigating the crash.
This is still a developing story and will be updated as more information is confirmed.
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Police say that a man was not injured Tuesday afternoon after crashing on the bridge over the Bacon Creek channel.
Rescue crews responded to the 900 block of Cunningham Dr. for a single-vehicle accident just after 4:00 p.m., Tuesday.
Crews arrived to find the vehicle smashed up against the fence over the channel. Police say the vehicle was traveling in the opposite direction from where the vehicle ended up. He hit a curb and ended up going over the fence line. The vehicle had to be secured before the man was rescued.
Police say he will likely be cited. The investigation is ongoing.
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