LAUREL, Neb. – The Nebraska State Patrol is investigating an incident with multiple fatalities that occurred in Laurel early Thursday morning. The situation includes multiple scenes in the Cedar County community and is an active investigation.

At a press conference Thursday, NSP Col. John Bolduc said that there were two incidents involving fire that occurred on the same street. The first occurred in the 200 block of Elm Street, followed by another in the 500 block of Elm Street.

Bolduc said one person was found dead at the initial scene, while three were found dead at the second home.

According to Bolduc, a suspect was seen leaving Laurel in a silver sedan in the early morning hours. The suspect, who was described as a Black man, may have picked up a passenger before leaving town, Bolduc said. No other descriptions were available for the driver or any possible passenger. Bolduc said the suspect car was seen traveling westbound on Highway 20.

Bolduc said the identities of the victims would not likely be released by the end of Thursday.

Multiple witnesses reported seeing or hearing an explosion at approximately 3:00 a.m. While firefighters were responding to the first scene, they were called to the second home for the second fire. Officials with hazmat suits were seen walking toward the scene by the middle of Thursday morning.

Bolduc said it was too early to discuss a motive, but he said foul play is suspected, and it was possible the two incidents were related.

"We have two fires with deceased people three blocks apart. It would be a stretch to say that there's no connection, but it's very early in the investigation. We hope to find those answers in the coming days," Bolduc said.

Bolduc said it was too early to determine if the victims were killed before the fires. Multiple witnesses had reported hearing gunshots. Bolduc said investigators were searching for evidence that would potentially indicate other causes of death, including gunshots.

Local businesses and other buildings in Laurel were on lockdown, though Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda said it is being left up to individual businesses and residences whether or not they want to continue with the lockdown.

"It's a tight-knit community, about 1,000 people, a very safe community," Koranda said. "Everybody knows everybody in this community. I think people just need to be diligent. If they see something out of the ordinary or something they're not used to, please contact the State Patrol."

Koranda said the incident has had an effect on many in the community of approximately 1,000 people.

"It shakes everybody up," Koranda said. "It also affects the EMS that respond to the fire. It affects everybody."