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Explosion and fire kills 2, leaves 2 critically injured near 51st and M Streets
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Explosion and fire kills 2, leaves 2 critically injured near 51st and M Streets

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

An explosion and resulting fire that leveled a home near 51st and M Streets on Tuesday morning killed a grandmother and her daughter and critically injured the grandmother's partner and grandson. 

Theresa Toledo, 74, and Angela Toledo, 45, died at the scene, family members told The World-Herald. Larry Rodriguez, 72, and Alexander Toledo, 28, were taken to Nebraska Medical Center in critical condition. Alex Toledo then was flown to a burn unit in Kansas City for treatment, family members said.

Vincent Toledo, Theresa's ex-husband, and his wife Judy Devault Toledo said in an interview that despite the divorce between Vince and Theresa, they all stayed in close contact.

Theresa "was a friend to everyone," Judy Toledo said. "Even though there was a divorce, it was just like one plain family. We kept in close touch."  

Judy and Vince had planned to visit Theresa on Thursday to pick up tamales and deliver them to Vince and Theresa's son in St. Louis. In addition to Angela, the former couple also had another daughter who lives in Denver.

"Larry and Theresa had practically been living in North Platte with her mother, who just turned 100," Judy said. "They came home for the holidays to be with Angela, and then they were going right back."

The explosion was reported just before 8:15 a.m. The blast, which occurred at 4810 S. 51st St., could be heard from blocks away, and smoke from the resulting fire was visible from more than a mile away. Debris from the blast was blown into neighboring trees. Omaha firefighters found one dog that died at the scene of the blast. They gave oxygen to another dog. 

Melanie Grabowski, who lives down 51st Street from the house that exploded, said, "I just got back in the house from walking the dog when I heard a massive boom, and my house shook. I looked outside and I saw debris flying in the air."

Grabowski and her neighbors went outside and found a younger man sitting on the south side of what was left of the house that exploded. Grabowski said he was "completely charred. His clothes were burned off him."

Neighbors wrapped the young man in some blankets, Grabowski said, and two men picked him up and carried him across the street from the remains of the house.

"He was totally out of it — in shock," she said.

Grabowski said she would wave to the people who live in the house and said she had spoken to the woman who lives there. "She was very nice," she said.

Grabowski said one of her windows cracked from the explosion. A neighbor who lives on South 50th Street said her basement window shattered. A person who lives near 46th and T Streets said it sounded as if the blast had occurred next door.

In addition to the house that was leveled, the houses to the north and south sides of the home suffered heavy fire damage, said Omaha Fire Battalion Chief Scott Fitzpatrick.

Fire investigators still are working to determine the cause of the blast and fire, he said.

Utilities have been shut off to the home and the houses around it.

The Omaha Police Department will investigate the death, as is protocol, Fitzpatrick said.

Police, fire and utility crews will be at the scene for the rest of the day to put out hot spots and continue the investigation, he said.

Cathie DeLoa, a niece of Theresa Toledo, said her aunt was beloved by an extended family and would do anything for anybody.

“She loved her family. She loved her kids, her grandkids. She was always there for everybody.”

Retired, Theresa made Mexican food and spent lots of time with family.

“She’d do anything for anybody,” DeLoa said.

It’s not yet clear whether the explosion was caused by natural gas, said Tracey Christensen, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Utilities District. MUD crews were called to the scene after the blast was reported, she said.

World-Herald staff writer Cindy Gonzalez contributed to this report.

Photos: Explosion destroys Omaha home, 402-444-1272

Omaha World-Herald: Afternoon Update

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