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Villigan remembered as strong and independent person

PRESCOTT --- Although it wasn't the original intent, Tuesday's press conference at the Prescott Emergency Medical Services Training Room turned into a public memorial for Lisa Villigan.

While not officially identified as of the conference, Acting Police Chief Mike Bondarenko said, based on the information gathered, Villigan was the one who died in the Feb. 17 explosion when she drove into the house of Randy and Sue Hendrickson at 1010 Pearl St. (Prescott police officially confirmed her identity a day later. She was 39.)

Villigan was alive after that happened, but more than likely died when "in her disoriented state," according to Police Officer Ben Henrich who was there on site, she tried to back the car out of the house.

That triggered an explosion which engulfed Villigan's vehicle, a 2001 Green GMC Sierra, and most of the Hendricksons' house. Henrich, who was next to the vehicle checking on the status of Villigan when the explosion occurred, was thrown approximately 15 to 20 feet. He was treated and released from Regina Medical Center in Hastings, Minn., for scrapes and burns on his face and hands.

"It was a heroic effort by Ben trying to save her life," said Dawn Parker, Villigan's sister-in-law, who spoke on behalf of the family.

According to Prescott Fire Chief Bill Dravis, when the vehicle crashed into the house, it landed right on top of the gas line, causing the explosion when she tried starting it. He said the fire became controllable around midnight when the gas line was finally shut off.

"When gas is burning, you can't control what's going on," he said.

He also added fire department members were on site for about seven hours, not leaving until 4 a.m. the following day.

Henrich stated he didn't know Villigan personally, but knew of her because he usually saw her walking her dogs, Molly and Paco, both Black Lab mix, while he was on patrol.

That was one of Villigan's favorite hobbies, stated Parker. She explained sometimes she would walked them two to eight miles a day before or after her work, which was tending bar at the No Name Saloon in Prescott.

Molly and Paco were with Villigan when she crashed into the house. Both survived the explosion, but not without some harrowing moments.

Parker explained that, because they don't live too far away from the accident site either, they tried to find out what's going on. When walking to it, they noticed Molly in front of Villigan's house trying to get back in, because it was a gated house. Parker said her first impression was she got out and tried to get back in.

They corralled her and, once they realized Paco was missing, they were giving information to anyone and everyone about him. He was found shortly afterwards near the accident site.

"Both dogs are doing really well," she said.

Villigan was coming from the No Name when the explosion occurred, which was a couple of blocks away from where she lived. Bondarenko said the investigation is still ongoing, but they're factoring on three key things: 1) Were there any mechanical issues with the vehicle?; 2) Villigan's condition, as toxicology reports are pending; and 3) An eyewitness reported a black SUV was leaving the scene of the accident.

When asked how best Villigan could be described, Parker said the following: "She was very independent. She was bold, stubborn and never afraid to speak her mind.

"She loved to live life and that everyone in town knew her."

Villigan was born May 6, 1967, to Betty and Jim Parker. She is also survived by four brothers, Doug, John, Judd and Keith.

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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