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Natural gas caused deadly Omaha house explosion, officials say

Natural gas caused deadly Omaha house explosion, officials say

An explosion and fire level a home at 4810 S. 51st St. in Omaha

A house explosion that killed three people near 51st and M Streets last month was caused by natural gas ignition, officials said Thursday, but why the gas was released is still unknown.

The Dec. 8 explosion at 4810 S. 51st St. killed homeowner Theresa Toledo, 73, her daughter Angela Toledo, 45, and Angela’s son Alexander Toledo, 28. The women died at the scene, while Alexander, who had been taken to a Kansas City burn unit, died two days later.

Also in the home was Larry Rodriguez, 72, who was taken to Nebraska Medical Center for treatment of his injuries.

The blast damaged nearby houses and sent debris flying far from the home.

Omaha Fire Department investigators tried to determine the source and cause of the blast, while the Omaha Police Department’s homicide unit detectives looked into the Toledo deaths.

Authorities said Thursday that a natural gas release at the home was ignited by one of several possible ignition sources at the home, such as a furnace or water heater pilot light. That caused the explosion and ensuing fire.

But fire officials have not determined why there was a gas release into the home. Officials said they are still investigating.

Homicide unit detectives have completed several interviews and said Thursday there is no “evidence or indications that criminal activity caused the gas to be released into the house.”

The three Toledo family members’ deaths will be classified as unknown unless new information or evidence surfaces, police said.

The day before the blast, Theresa Toledo filed a protection order against Alexander Toledo, who lived in her basement. Theresa Toledo said she had grown fearful of him and that he used methamphetamine and hallucinogenic mushrooms.

“I need Alex out of my house now before he destroys my house or harms me, the drugs make him crazy,” she wrote.

A judge had granted the domestic abuse protection order the same day Theresa filed it, Dec. 7.

Theresa wrote in the protection order application about Alex’s drug use and said he “talks to himself and says his step-father is in his head.”

“I told Alex that he needs help to get off the drugs and get a job. He has put holes in the basement walls where he stays and you can’t even walk in the basement. He had electronics in the walls and ceiling. I’m afraid he will start my house on fire.”

Photos: Explosion destroys Omaha home

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