One of the victims in Tuesday's house explosion and fire, 66-year-old Merlin Gardner, died of his injuries on Wednesday.
Two other victims, 39-year-old Billy Boyer and 42-year-old Joseph Mangiamelli, remain in critical condition at the Nebraska Medical Center. Two others were taken to Creighton University Medical Center and later released. A sixth person was treated at the scene.
According to Ruth Clark, who was in the home at the time of the explosion and fire, there were five residents in all. “There’s me and my oldest son and I have two people who live in my basement and one that lives upstairs."
Although the Omaha Fire Department has not confirmed the cause of the fire at 37th and Fowler Avenue, neighbors told Channel 6 News one of the men had a Culligan container full of gasoline that spilled. It allegedly rolled down the stairs and hit the furnace, sparking the fire.
Brandon Vasta lives next door and heard the explosions. “Actually, to be honest with you, I thought it was a meth lab that blew up. There’s a lot of activity that goes on. I know some of the people that go there, you can just tell, that was my first instinct. Then we find out they're playing with gasoline.”
Gardner had turned 66 on Monday.