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Explosion victim dies of injuries


ONAWA – A man injured in a propane explosion at a vacant house he owned died Saturday at Clarkson Hospital in Omaha.

Earl Thelander, 80, was hospitalized Aug. 27 after suffering second- and third-degree burns.

He plugged in a fan to air out the house’s basement and it caused the gas fumes to explode, according to the Monona County Sheriff’s Office.*

The office said copper wire thieves had burglarized the house earlier and cut into a gas line, causing the leak.

A sheriff’s office spokesperson said there had been no arrests in the case as of this morning.

According to Monona County Assistant County Attorney Steve Allen, his office is investigating what charges to file if an arrest is made.

He said they had ruled out first-degree murder unless intent to cause Thelander’s death could be proven.

Thelander’s funeral will be held Thursday at First Christian Church in Onawa. Visitation and a memorial prayer service are set for Wednesday evening at Rush Family Care Service in Onawa.

– Tom McMahon

* Correction: Earl had gone back to the home several hours after the gas leak had first been discovered. The sheriff’s department had gone, and, smelling no remaining fumes, Earl plugged in a fan to help dry water on the floor’s basement so he could install a new water pump. (He did not plug it in to air out any remaining fumes, because he didn’t smell anything.)

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