Copper Theft Blamed for House Explosion

On January 13, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

DesMoinesRegister.com

 

Copper theft blamed for house explosion

By TOM ALEX
REGISTER STAFF WRITER

August 29, 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 the target of so-called “urban miners” who hope to cash in on the high price of certain scrap metals.

The thief 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.

“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’s 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 specialized burn unit.

Pratt said there have been few relatively 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.”

 

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Reader Comment
Posted by: jsnmlk on Thu Aug 30, 2007 4:11 am
According to NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) propane can be ran through copper tubing. One thing is propane is heavier than air so it going to settle to the lowest point. His best bet would have been to set the fan outside and vent through a window out another window.

I hope when they catch this “entrepreneur(s)”(about as bad as calling it “urban mining”), they charge them with not only B&E but attempted murder, because taking the copper could be considered gross negligence. If the vicitm would pass way from his injuries (I hope he makes a full recovery) it should be considered murder 1 because it was premeidated.

Most scrap yards don’t care
Posted by: Matt on Thu Aug 30, 2007 12:01 am
I was selling some scrap copper a few weeks ago. I saw a couple of rolls of brand new wire. It was the bare solid copper wire we use for grounding electrical services to ground rods and water mains. Nice and neat rolls of bare copper wire. The theives just took the spools apart and they were left with rolled up bare copper wire.

I pointed out to the yard that it was totally hot wire. I knew you couldn’t prove it. But they needed to point this out to the cops.

I called a tropper I know and he told me which cop to talk to. The yard remembered what town the scum was from. I passed all of this on.

The cop later told me that they had the cops in the scum’s home town watching him as well.

I haven’t heard anything – what I saw wouldn’t do any good in court anyway – but hopefully they’ll get some of the scum of of the street.

Reader Comment
Posted by: hoopdwalawala on Wed Aug 29, 2007 7:09 pm
Fill the ‘miner’s’ home with propane then hand him a full crack pipe. That’ll resolve him in very short time.

Reader Comment
Posted by: spiceycurry on Wed Aug 29, 2007 6:58 pm
Boy, that is acryin’ shame. But what a tough Old Cat. I hope he recovers.

Theft -not mining
Posted by: cav-tanker on Wed Aug 29, 2007 5:14 pm
It would be nice if the Register would call it like it is. It is not Urban Mining- it is Breaking and entering along with larcency or theft. The term Urban Mining just tries to justify the theft or criminal trespass.

Hope they can throw the book at this jerk. Better yet – let him plug in the fan and then fry. You would never want to be burned again if you have been severely burnt before. It is a pain that doesn’t go away unless it gets to third degree.

Please start using the proper term instead of glorifying the crooks.

Reader Comment
Posted by: JJCDAD on Wed Aug 29, 2007 4:20 pm
I think there needs to be something done to make it harder for the crack heads to redeem scrap metal. Maybe some kind of requirement that folks who want to get cash for metal have to put down a sizeable deposit with the scrap yard. That deposit could then be refunded once the customer has demonstrated a history of legitimate transactions.

FYI
Posted by: fz1 on Wed Aug 29, 2007 3:22 pm
When you plug anything into an outlet there is a minute amount of spark…………..guessing he has figured that out now!

Reader Comment
Posted by: thor on Wed Aug 29, 2007 3:14 pm
I think they mean in a major way because now thieves are moving from pipes that cause minor inconviences to now to taking items that could possibly destroy a house. I’m pretty sure you would be awfuly upset if someone did this to you and then got charged with just petty theft.

There was another article just a couple weeks ago about people stealing catylitic converters from cars and selling then for around $30-$40, and then leaving the victim to purchase a new one for a couple hundred.

Also, hopefully he has good insurance because you know even if they catch the crack head who did this they won’t be able to get any money from him.

Reader Comment
Posted by: slycotton82 on Wed Aug 29, 2007 2:56 pm
3rd degree burns on half his body and he drove himself to the hospital? That is one tough 80 year old man!

Reader Comment
Posted by: missm on Wed Aug 29, 2007 2:48 pm
…in a major way – I suspect they meant because of the house explosion. That’s pretty major.

Also, I’m pretty sure that it is against plumbing code to run gas through copper lines. It is for natural gas anyway, not so sure about propane.

Copyright © 2007 The Des Moines Register

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Onawa Man Hurt in House Explosion

On January 13, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Sioux City Journal logo

August 29, 2007

6 comment(s)

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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Onawa Man Injured in House Explosion – AP

On January 12, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

KWQC logo

Onawa Man Injured in House Explosion


Associated Press – August 29, 2007 10:14 AM ET

ONAWA, Iowa (AP) – Western Iowa officials say an Onawa man suffered burns in a house explosion.

Eighty-year-old Earl Thelander was injured yesterday afternoon in the blast that happened in the basement of a vacant house he owns in rural Onawa.

According to the Monona County sheriff’s office, Thelander had just plugged in a fan to help vent fumes from a propane line that had been cut on a furnace during a burglary.

Officials say someone broke into the house and took copper waterlines and then tried to take the copper propane line.

After the explosion, Thelander drove to his home. He was taken to a hospital in Onawa, and then to a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.

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Home Explodes After Thief Nabs Copper Pipes – DTN Blogs

On January 12, 2012, in , by Jody Ewing

Home Explodes After Thief Nabs Copper Pipes

(The Des Moines Register, August 30, 2007)
Posted at 03:52PM Aug 30, 2007

A thief who stripped copper tubing from an exterior propane tank is being blamed for a gas build-up resulting in an explosion that severely burned an 80-year-old Onawa, Iowa, man.

Earl Thelander suffered third-degree burns on nearly half of his body after his home exploded Tuesday. The explosion was the result of the copper tubing that led to the furnace being cut by “urban miners” who steal the tubing and recycle it for cash.

The copper stolen from the Thelander home was valued at about $15. Copper prices have skyrocketed in the past few years due to increasing global demand, resulting in rising theft rates.

“It’s one thing to steal copper water pipes,” said Onawa Mayor Rebecca Tanner. “But to steal copper gas pipes is beyond comprehension. This caused a tremendous explosion. Everyone knows how dangerous gas can be.”

The explosion blew out one wall and bowed another, but Thelander walked out of the blast and drove himself to the hospital. He was later transferred to a special burn unit in Omaha, Neb., where he remains in critical condition.

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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

WOWT Logo

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.

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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.

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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.

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