Fire chief: Omaha house explosion that killed 1 was accident

AP News
Posted: Jul 27, 2016 4:41 PM
Fire chief: Omaha house explosion that killed 1 was accident

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — An explosion that leveled an Omaha house and killed one person this week was an accident, fire officials said Wednesday.

Property inspector Clara Bender, 30, died from injuries she received in the Monday afternoon blast that also heavily damaged four adjacent homes and injured two other people.

In a report released Wednesday, interim Omaha Fire Chief Dan Olsen said the gas started flowing into the house on Saturday after people moving a clothes dryer didn't properly shut off a natural gas line to the appliance.

The people who were helping the home's tenant move out later reported the smell of gas to the tenant. Authorities say the tenant called Bender's cellphone late Saturday and left a message to report the gas smell. It's not known whether Bender received the message before entering the house on Monday, Olsen's report said.

"The natural gas flowing from the disconnected clothes dryer line had filled the structure until Monday ... when Mrs. Bender entered the residence," Olsen wrote. "Investigators believe she was in the kitchen of the home at the time of the explosion."

More than one ignition source in the home was identified, but officials said they could not pinpoint which source touched off the explosion.

Bender died after being taken to Nebraska Medical Center, authorities have said.

Bender, who worked for Certified Property Management of Omaha, was at the home to check on its condition after allowing the tenant — who was evicted earlier this month — to enter the property over the weekend to collect personal items.

Her husband also works for Certified Property Management.

The company set up a GoFundMe page on Tuesday to benefit her family. A day later, it was nearing its goal of $15,000.