Onawa man hospitalized after home explodes

On January 12, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing
Sioux City Journal logo

 

August 30, 2007

Onawa man hospitalized after home explodes

By Travis Coleman
Journal Staff Writer

An 80-year-old Onawa, Iowa, man was hospitalized after a rural Onawa home exploded Tuesday afternoon.

The explosion happened around 12:30 p.m., in the home’s basement, where Earl Thelander was venting fumes from a propane line that had been cut in an alleged burglary earlier Tuesday, the Monona County Sheriff’s Office reported today. Thelander was then taken from the home at 20877 Gum Ave., by private vehicle to Burgess Health Center in Onawa with burns.

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

It wasn’t known if the home was Thelander’s, Martin said.

A relative in Onawa, Sharon Thelander, said she just found out about the explosion and didn’t know how Earl was doing.

The home sustained considerable structural damage, the sheriff’s office reported.

© Copyright 2007, Sioux City Journal

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Iowa Man Burned in Explosion

On January 12, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

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Iowa Man Burned in Explosion

Propane fueled blast

August 30, 2007

Earl ThelanderAn Onawa, Iowa man is hospitalized in Omaha in critical condition after suffering burns in an explosion on Tuesday.

Eighty-year-old Earl Thelander was injured in the basement of a vacant house he owns in rural Onawa, about an hour north of the metro area.

“If he has two enemies in the world it would surprise me, says Doug Thelander, Earl’s son.

“Always seemed to help neighbors who’d call on him when he’s needed, said Eddie Wagner, who runs the local hardware store. “Didn’t seem to matter if it was day or night, just whenever he’s needed, just like a good neighbor.”

Thieves had broken in earlier on Tuesday, first stealing copper water lines, then the gas line. The house filled with propane gas. Police arrived, the gas was shut off and the windows opened.

A few hours later, Thelander, a longtime plumber who was renovating the house, no longer smelled gas, turned on a fan to air out the structure. That ignited a pocket of gas that remained.

The blast threw Earl across the basement. “He was right at the center of the explosion and actually walked out through the fire to get outside the house,” said Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt.

Earl drove himself to the hospital in Onawa with third-degree burns on 40% of his body. He was later transferred to the Nebraska Medical Center.

“It’s senseless,” says Doug Thelander. “People stealing copper out of these houses for $20 worth of copper. We’ve got a man fighting for his life. This is a man that’s worked in the heating and air conditioning trade all his life. It isn’t like he was some old guy fumbling around.”

“I’m pretty sure he was careful when he was doing it,” says Wagner. “It’s just one of the things that happens.”

Sheriff Pratt says anyone with information concerning this incident should call the Monona County Sheriff’s Department at 1-800-859-1414. The calls are confidential. The sheriff also wants area salvage yards to beware of those selling copper and report any suspicious activity.


Comments

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.

Posted by: Rev. Keith on Sep 1, 2007 at 04:21 PM
The thoughts and prayers of Earl’s son’s church in Clovis, California are with the entire Thelander family as we hope and pray that Earl survives this tragedy and is stable enough to undergo the necessary surgery he needs.

Posted by: Vladamir on Aug 30, 2007 at 09:00 AM
This is some horrific news especially this explosion was likely caused by some idiotic meth users stripping the copper and alumimum piping in the house. Absolutely tragic.

Posted by: Brenda on Aug 29, 2007 at 10:12 PM
This is absolutely terrible! My heart goes out to this poor mans family. I offer nothing but the best, and my prayers for a fast recovery.

Posted by: Lori on Aug 29, 2007 at 06:30 PM
Earl is my stepfather, and our whole extended family is devastated by this tradgedy. To think someone is fighting for their life because of copper theft is almost more than we all can bear. I hope that we can find the person, or people who is responsible for this, and they are brought to justice. I ask for prayers for my “Father”, and hope that he he can recover from this. He is a strong man, and has the fight in him, and his family needs him like we need the air that we breath. God speed his recovery.

Posted by: Amy on Aug 29, 2007 at 03:26 PM
I sure hope that who ever stole this little bit of copper sleeps good at night. If this was my father I would want you hunted like an animal. My prayers go out to Mr. Thelander and pray for a speedy recovery.

Posted by: J.K. Lyons on Aug 29, 2007 at 02:57 PM
You will be in the thoughts and prayers of my family. Get well soon. When is enough going to be enough? You people that spend all day scamming and what ever else you do, if you put that much effort into getting clean and getting a job you would not need to carry out these crimes. Stop and tell your self it is a stupid drug. And I’m stupid for doing it. As for the rest of us stop being scared and start turning theses people in. Who care if it is someone you know. Turn them in so they can get help. And stop turning a blind eye.

Copyright © 2007 WOWT

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Victim’s Family Speaks Out About Copper Crime Explosion

On January 12, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

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Victim’s Family Speaks Out About Copper Crime Explosion

August 30, 2007, 6:30 pm


Earl Thelander getting ready to plant tomatoes outside his homeAn Onawa, Iowa man is still struggling to stay alive, two days after a house explosion nearly killed him.

Now, that man’s family wants an answer, to who cut the propane line in his father’s home.

Over 40% [sic, was 80%] of Earl Thelander’s body was burned in Tuesday’s explosion. He went through three hours of skin graft surgery today.

However, doctors say he only has a 20% to 25% chance of survival.

We’re learning more about the minutes leading up to that powerful propane blast, as the search for clues to this bizarre crime, continues.

“I had talked to dad about 10:30, he told me about the theft at that point,” says his son Brad.

Someone broke into Earl Thelander’s basement Tuesday morning, came away with $10 worth of copper tubing, and left him with a dangerous problem, a gas leak. The 80 year old man opened the windows to air out his home, and left.

“He called me back at quarter to 11. Apparently at that time, he was headed back out to the house,” remembers Brad.

Thelander thought the air was clear and plugged in a fan, but then… “He said I’ve never seen a fireball that big,” says Brad.

Thelander quickly crawled out of the house, and tried to use his cell phone to call for help.

“But it was inoperative at that point, and there was no one else there. So, he got in the pick-up and drove home,” explains his son.

Thirty minutes later the 80 year old checked into the local hospital, with his body burned to the bone.

“Tonight we’re just hoping that his kidneys and his lungs keep functioning. You know it’s definitely a struggle at this point,” Brad explains.

Authorities say copper crimes are becoming more common, at least in parts of Siouxland.

Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt says, “We have seen an influx in the counties to the south of us, stealing of copper wire and tubing, and they’re reselling that, at this point we don’t know where.”

To Brad Thelander, stealing a piece of copper is not worth a life, especially not a loved one.

“He’s gonna be in a lot of pain if he lives through it. For this, to put something like this on a man’s life it’s sad that something has to do that. For ten bucks, I’d a given them ten bucks to keep my dad around,” says Brad.

Without any physical evidence or witnesses Sheriff Pratt says this is a very hard crime to solve.

If you saw or heard anything about the copper robbery you’re asked to call the Monona County Sheriff’s Department at 1-800-859-1414.

Authorities say you can protect your home from copper crimes the same way you protect it for any other burglary.

Lock your doors, install security lights, make it look like somebody’s home, and keep your eyes out for your neighbors too.

Copyright © 2007 KTIV

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KETV: Man Dies After $20 Copper Theft

On January 12, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Man Dies After $20 Copper Theft

 (Video has disappeared and we are trying to find another online copy.)

Video from KETV Newswatch Channel 7 in Omaha, NE,
regarding the death of Earl Thelander of Onawa, IA
Air Date: October 12, 2007

Onawa, Iowa — A $20 copper theft in August led to the death of an Iowa man, and local authorities said on Friday that they need the public’s help to solve the crime.

Earl Thelander, 80, died Sept. 1 after an explosion in a home he owns outside of Onawa. His son, Doug, said his father was preparing the property for a new renter. In the process, someone raided the inside of the home, police said, stealing wiring and tubing and cutting a gas line into the home.

Doug Thelander said his father aired out the gas smell in the house for almost three hours the next day, then plugged in a fan to move the air around.

“He said, ‘Doug, I didn’t smell anything, but that spark there was just a tremendous explosion,'” Thelander said, recalling one of his last conversations with his father.

Earl Thelander had second- and third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body. He died in a hospital four days later.

“It’s tough to watch. It’s tough to watch somebody like that just fade away,” Doug Thelander said.

Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt said he has been working the case since the beginning. Now, he’s asking the public for more help.

“We’re talking about $20 worth of copper,” the sheriff said. “We’re trying to make people aware that somebody had to of heard something, or somebody spoke about it. We just want people to call in and give us some information.”

“He was a humble man,” said Doug Thelander. “He was a strong man. He was a good man.”

If you have information, call 800-859-1413. Callers may remain anonymous, and there is a reward for good information.

Copyright 2007 by KETV.com. All rights reserved

More articles on Earl Thelander death

Home explodes after thief nabs copper pipes

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Record Herald logo

 

Home explodes after thief nabs copper pipes

“It blew out one wall and bowed another one”

By TOM ALEX
DES MOINES REGISTER STAFF WRITER

August 30, 2007

A thief who stripped copper tubing from a propane tank is blamed for a gas buildup and house explosion that severely burned an 80-year-old Onawa man, authorities said Wednesday.

Earl Thelander suffered third-degree burns over nearly half his body in Tuesday’s blast. Investigators say the gas buildup was linked to the disappearance of the tubing, which has increasingly been targeted by so-called “urban miners” who hope to cash in on the high price of certain scrap metals.

The burglar who hit Thelander’s rural home “maybe got $15 worth of copper,” Monona County Sheriff Jeff Pratt said. “They cut the propane line going to the furnace of the house in an attempt to steal the copper.”

Pratt said Thelander discovered the theft Tuesday and tried to air out the house, which he uses for rental income. He went to the basement and plugged in a fan, which investigators say likely sparked the explosion shortly after noon.

“It blew out one wall and bowed another one,” Pratt said. “But Earl walked out of there.”

The thief got away with 25 to 40 feet of copper tubing. Scrap metal prices have climbed in recent years due to increased demand in countries such as India and China.

“This just totally bowled people over that someone would do something menacing like this,” Onawa Mayor Rebecca Tanner said. “It’s one thing to steal copper water pipes. But to steal copper gas pipes is beyond comprehension. This caused a tremendous explosion. Everyone knows how dangerous gas can be.

“Everyone in town who knows about this is amazed, startled and outraged.”

Thelander tried to use his cell phone to call for help, but it apparently was rendered inoperable in the blast.

“He drove himself back into town and to the hospital,” Pratt said. “He is really a remarkable guy.”

Thelander was later moved to an Omaha hospital with a specialized burn unit. He was in critical condition Wednesday.

Pratt said there have been relatively few copper thefts reported in Monona County.

“Counties to the south have had this problem,” he said. “Now we’ve got it – in a major way.”

Reporter Tom Alex can be reached at (515) 284-8088 or talex@dmreg.com.

COMMENTS

Good point on if he had walked in on the thieves…
Posted by: leopard_colony on Sat Sep 01, 2007 9:18 am
Unfortunately Granddad hit the nail on the head… what would happen if someone interrupted these thieves? Odds are the homeowner would wind up dead. Since most theft is drug related it is likely the thieves have impaired judgment and are desperate for a fix. If you are in a rural area and hear someone outside you better be armed. There is no way the sheriff can reach you in time, nor do you want to pester them with false alarms. So grab your gun when you investigate. It doesn’t mean you have to shoot someone, it just means you can save your own life.

my solution
Posted by: FarWest on Thu Aug 30, 2007 2:00 pm
This thief deserves about 3 feet of 3/4″ copper suppository. I would say yes to attempted murder. I hope Mr. Thelander survives this. He must be one heck of a strong man to walk out of there and go for help.

Reader Comment
Posted by: Granddad on Thu Aug 30, 2007 1:12 pm
That is nothing less then attemted murder Don`t know if they are the same thieves that stole the copper out of One of my rentals three months ago. But catch these rotten bastards before someone gets killed. seriously if This outstanding gentalman (for his survival skills if nothing else)would have walked in on them stealing the copper what do you think these scumbags would have done(Surrender) Right.Solution. Need to moniter all sales of bulk copper having said this 3 times now DMPD are you listening there is only a handful of places that take metel like this. ARE records being kept ,Names being taken,Follow ups being made MMMM or a police force being lazy. now an elderly man has third degree burns over half his body GET BUSY.

Reader Comment
Posted by: dvmurphy from Waterloo, IA on Sep 4, 2007
I personally know Earl Thealander and his wife Hope. I hope they catch the no-good idiot who stripped his house of the copper tubing to the furnace. I hope Earl is doing great at the hospital and my heart goes out to his family. He is a great man and a great landlord to have. I should know as I rented an apartment from them for two years. If you needed anything that family was great. He is a well respected man in his community and would give you the shirt off his back to help you. The punk who caused his burns I hope he enjoys his lousy $15 that could have cost Earl his life. My Father always said that what you don’t pay for on earth you pay three fold to the Lord. The idiot who caused this accident will have to live with what he did. God bless you Earl.

Reader Comment
Posted by: dvmurphy from Waterloo, IA on Sep 4, 2007
I just found out that Earl died. I am saddened for his loss. My heart goes out to his family. If they catch this person responsible he should be tried for murder.

Copyright The Des Moines Register

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Man Recovering After House Explodes

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

WHO TV logo

Man Recovering After House Explodes

 

August 31, 2007

Thieves broke into Earl Thelander’s Onawa home on Tuesday, stealing copper pipes and starting a gas leak. When Thelander turned on a fan to clear the fumes, the house exploded, burning over 80 percent of his body.

The 80-year-old called for help from his cell phone, but then decided to drive himself to the hospital. Thelander remains in critical condition, clinging to life.

Earl’s sons say they don’t have time to be angry at the thieves, they’re just hoping their dad pulls through.

“Tonight we’re just hoping that his kidneys and lungs keep functioning. You know it’s definitely a struggle at this point,” Brad Thelander said.

Police say the copper taken from Thelanders’s home was worth only $10.

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Victim Of Robbery And Explosion Passes Away

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

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Victim Of Robbery And Explosion Passes Away

September 1, 2007, 11:12 pm

KTIV photo of rural homeAn Onawa, Iowa man died Saturday night, just days after a propane explosion at his home.

On Tuesday, police say someone robbed this home and stole copper tubing water lines. In the process, the thieves cut the propane line.

Later that day, the homeowner, 80 year old Earl Thelander, turned on a fan to vent the fumes and that’s when the explosion happened.

Thelander drove himself to the Burgess Medical Center in Onawa, with burns over 40% of his body.

Copyright © 2007 KTIV

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Iowa Man Loses Fight for Life

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

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Iowa Man Loses Fight for Life

Injured in propane explosion

 

Earl ThelanderA man injured in a propane explosion last week died in the hospital over the weekend.

Eighty-year-old Earl Thelander had been hospitalized since last Tuesday when he was burned over 40 percent of his body.

He was venting a home that he owns in Onawa when propane fumes ignited.

It’s believed the copper gas line was cut by thieves in search of scrap metal.

A funeral will be held Thursday for Thelander in his hometown at the First Christian Church.

Comments

Comments are posted from WOWT viewers and do not always reflect the views of the station.

Posted by: Kim on Oct 12, 2007 at 10:20 AM
My thoughts are with you, Doug, and the rest of your family … I lost my mother and father in that boating accident in mid-July. I know what it is like to wait for a miracle in the halls of the UNMC ICU. Know that you are not alone in the world of senseless deaths. I hope they can charge the thief with involuntary manslaughter = 1-20 yrs in prision. Many people will be thinking of you and watching the news to see this killer caught.

Posted by: Geo on Sep 3, 2007 at 09:25 PM
My thoughts and prayers are with the family. I pray that these thieves are caught before they harm anyone else so needlessly. And yes, I to hope they can be charged for much more than theft.

Posted by: Lisa on Sep 3, 2007 at 05:49 PM
I hope the copper thieves will be caught and can be tried for murder because of this! My heart goes out to Mr. Thelander and his family. I hope his family will find comfort in his long productive and loving life despite this senseless ending.

Copyright © 2007 WOWT

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Onawa man hurt in explosion dies in Omaha – SCJ

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Sioux City Journal logo

 

Onawa man hurt in explosion dies in Omaha

 

September 3, 2007
ONAWA, Iowa — The man hurt in a home explosion last week died Saturday in Omaha.

Earl Thelander, 80, died at Clarkson Hospital in Omaha. Funeral services will take place at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at First Christian Church in Onawa. Burial will be at a later date.

Thelander was hospitalized Tuesday with burn injuries after an explosion damaged an unoccupied home he owns in rural Onawa. The explosion happened in the basement at 20877 Gum Ave., where 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. He was then was airlifted to an Omaha burn unit, where medical personnel treated second-degree burns over 40 percent of his body.

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.

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

—————————–

Journal Comments

Phyllis Brus wrote on Sep 3, 2007 6:55 PM:
“My feeling is if this vandal is found he should be tried for manslauter at the very least.”

~~Tragic~~ wrote on Sep 3, 2007 5:24 PM:
“How tragic. Chances are the person responsible for this tragedy doesn’t read the newspaper. But if by chance they do; you should be ashamed of yourself. You stole things that weren’t yours and then took this man’s life; all over a couple bucks!? Hopefully this family can grieve and find peace; knowing the “big guy” knows who you are.”

Anyone with information about the crime is urged to call the Monona County Sheriff’s Office at (712) 423-2525.

© Copyright 2007, Sioux City Journal

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Onawa Explosion Victim Dies – MSNBC

On January 7, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

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Onawa Explosion Victim Dies

 

September 3, 2007

An Onawa, Iowa, man injured last week in a natural gas explosion in the basement of a vacant home has died. Earl Thelander died Saturday at Clarkson Hospital in Omaha.

Officials say they think the home exploded when Thelander plugged in a fan to help vent fumes from a broken propane line leading to the furnace. Officials say the line had been cut when burglars were stealing copper lines from the home and cut the gas lines before leaving.

Visitation and a funeral will be held later this week.

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