Update: Fireworks To Blame For Explosion

By: John Chapman, Jake Wasikowski, Ann McIntire Email
By: John Chapman, Jake Wasikowski, Ann McIntire Email

Posted March 8, 2012

Fire investigators confirmed Thursday that fireworks were to blame for Wednesday's house explosion in Omaha.

Investigators said the explosion occurred on the enclosed, back porch of the home near 79th and Himebaugh. The explosion has been ruled an accident. The homeowner, Brad Vanzago, remains hospitalized. His current condition is not being released.

Fire officials say Vanzago was making fireworks in the house when they exploded. Making fireworks in your home is against the law.

“It does concern me a little ‘cause you just don’t ever know something like this could happen,” said neighbor Crystal McAharen. “If you don’t take care it’s difficult, a good lesson. We had a good talk to our kids about fireworks the other night since this happened, showing them what can happen.”

There were other neighbors in the neighborhood who had talks with Vanzago about him setting off fireworks at inappropriate times. "One of the neighbors, like I said, he went over and he confronted him. I think they had a few words."

Channel 6's Malorie Maddox spoke with Brad's wife Katie Vanzago, who said their son was held overnight for observation, but is doing okay.

She also released this statement:

"We would like to express our profound gratitude to everyone in the community; neighbors, friends, family, churches and the team at Creighton University Medical Center. May God continue to give us strength. He (Brad) is in critical condition and lost his eye, hand, leg and sustained numerous injuries. A fund has been set up at Wells Fargo for donations to the Vanzago family. We want to thank everyone for their prayers and support, we are truly blessed."

Posted March 7, 2012

Officers with the Omaha Police Bomb Squad and ATF were on the scene investigating Wednesday's house explosion and fire that critically injured the homeowner.

Neighbors said they heard eight to 10 blasts coming from inside the house near North 79th and Himebaugh around 12:40 p.m. The home was fully engulfed in flames within moments. Smoke could be seen for miles around.

"I was up on 72nd Street, just on the other side of the interstate and I started heading home and I could see these massive plumes of black smoke coming up,” said witness Rebecca McKain.


Passerby Larry Beasley snapped the photo of a neighbor battling the flames before firefighters arrived, trying to keep it from spreading.

Neighbors said Brad Vanzago crawled out of the back of the house, badly burned and missing a hand. He was talking about fireworks inside his home. His wife and toddler were able to escape safely. Vanzago was hospitalized at Creighton University Medical Center in critical condition. A dog died in the fire.

"I saw the owner in the back, struggling to get off the porch and he was in pretty bad shape,” said neighbor Jeff Finch. "One of his hands was gone and the left side of his face was in pretty bad shape and his feet were pretty bad, too, and he was just barely clothed. My intentions were to get him pulled off the porch, but the fireworks kept going, the explosions kept going, so I backed out and he ended up rolling off the porch and across the back yard and then I went up, they got a blanket, and I went up and put a blanket on him and then told the paramedics where he was laying."

"I just heard a loud boom, it sounded like thunder, but it caused the whole house to shake, the glass shook," said neighbor Gordon Dryden.

"I did see the gentleman from I guess inside the house was laying in the back yard, had a blanket wrapped around him, the house was just engulfed in flames, the trees were on fire and the grass was on fire. There was a gas line by the deck that had flames shooting out like 10-feet tall and the electrical lines were on the ground sparking, so it was quite a scene."

The Omaha Fire Department wouldn't say if fireworks were the cause of the explosion, or if any were taken from the home. The Omaha Police Department's Crime Lab was on scene in the early evening hours.

At last check, Vanzago was still in critical condition. His wife was treated and released from the hospital while his young son was being kept at the hospital overnight for observation.

The witness video of the actual explosion is courtesy of Don McArhens.

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