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August 29, 2007

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Onawa man hurt in house explosion

By Travis Coleman, Journal Staff Writer

An 80-year-old Onawa, Iowa, man was hospitalized with burn injuries Tuesday afternoon after an explosion damaged an unoccupied rural Onawa home he owns.

The explosion happened about 12:30 p.m. in the basement at 20877 Gum Ave., where Earl Thelander had just plugged in a fan to help vent fumes from a propane line that had been cut in an alleged burglary earlier Tuesday, the Monona County Sheriff’s Office reported.

After the explosion, Thelander drove about two miles to his home, where he then was taken to Burgess Health Center in Onawa, said Carol Otto of Onawa, Thelander’s sister-in-law. Thelander was airlifted from Onawa to an Omaha burn unit, where he has second-degree burns over 40 percent of his body, Otto said. He is listed in critical condition.

“It’s so awful,” Otto said. “It doesn’t sound very good.”

At Burgess, Thelander told his family that he thought “all the gas was gone” prior to the explosion, Otto said.

Authorities said they believe the explosion is connected to a cut propane line on a furnace in the basement. The sheriff’s office had been called to the home Tuesday morning on a report of burglary and vandalism, but when deputies arrived, no one was there. No one has been arrested and there are no suspects, said Eric Martin, sheriff’s office dispatcher.

The burglar broke a door to get into the home and removed copper waterlines before attempting to take the copper propane line, the sheriff’s office reported. Thelander owns the home, which was vacant, neighbors said.

Siding was hanging off the front of the house, which the sheriff’s office said received considerable structural damage. The south wall of the home was blown out and is being held up by two poles, Otto said.

Sheriff’s deputies were assisted at the scene by the Onawa Fire Department and the Onawa Police Department.

“We’re all praying and hoping everything will be OK,” Otto said.
Read Comments > |

Gaylen-California wrote on Sep 22, 2007 6:45 PM:
“Let’s not let this story die. Criminals should be brought to justice. There are people out there buying this hot stuff, they know it, they aren’t stupid enough to believe some of the stories. CA has a one week wait period to get your money, you have to show VALID ID. Maybe some of the heat should go onto the guys who buy stolen material. How about some good ole investigative reporting?”

Cindy Miller wrote on Sep 2, 2007 10:05 AM:
“We lost a wonderful man last night to an incident that neve should have happened. Anyone that knew Dad knows that there was not a mean bone in his body and some jerk just took that person away from a wife,6 kids and their spouses,10 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren and a 2 foster grandchildren. Five more kids and their spouses, I don’t know how much more needs said, you get the picture? This is a senseless tragedy that should never have happened. Our only peace now is that he is not in pain and we WILL find those responsible and make them look all of us in the eyes to see what they robbed from us!”

Lori Mathes wrote on Aug 31, 2007 8:09 AM:
“My heart is aching every day for my stepfather, and I just keep praying that he will be strong enough to get through this. He is my Mother’s lifeline, and the thought of her having to go on without him only makes the aching worse. This family will not quit, until we find the person or people who are responsible for this. We ask for any help we can get…in bringing them to justice. PLEASE come forward if you have any information.”

Jody Ewing wrote on Aug 31, 2007 12:47 AM:
“Earl Thelander is not only my step-father, he’s the kindest, most gentle and decent man I’ve ever known. In his family and community, he’s regarded as a role model — someone who fully understands the difference between hard work and hard times — and one who’s led many by example through both. When Earl married my mother, Hope, 25 years ago come this December, that’s exactly what they shared…hope… Hope that his “6” children and her own “5” (+ the 2 of them) could somehow work together with that perfect baker’s dozen for the rest of all their lives. Mom and Earl, we’re all here for both of you and the cinnamon rolls are a’risin’! There’s a reason why God gave angels two wings.”

Nancy wrote on Aug 29, 2007 11:53 PM:
“I will Pray that he makes it i’m so sorry to hear about that i can’t beleve someone would do that and it almost killed the man.”

Doug Thelander wrote on Aug 29, 2007 10:52 AM:
“For less than $20 worth of old copper pipes, these cowardly thieves, with no thought of the consequences to innocent people, have caused a horrible accident, terrible trauma to a good man, and have affected the lives of dozens of close friends and family members. We ask for the community’s thoughts and prayers for our husband, father, and friend. We want this resolved. If anyone has any information about this crime, please call the Monona Co. Sheriff at 800-859-1414. Any information will be kept confidential. The Earl Thelander Family”

© Copyright 2007, Sioux City Journal

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