A second man has died of injuries suffered in last Tuesday's house explosion and fire at 37th and Fowler in Omaha.
Officials confirmed Friday that 39-year-old Billy Boyer died. The third victim, 42-year-old Joseph Mangiamelli, remains in critical condition at the Nebraska Medical Center.
Sixty-six-year-old Merlin Gardner, died of his injuries on Wednesday. His daughter Candace told Channel 6 News she doesn't have enough money to bury her father. Donations are being accepted at
Kremer Funeral Home at 62nd and Maple. Anyone willing to donate is asked to specify that donations are for Merlin Gardner.
Family members originally told Channel 6 News that one of the men had gas in a water container and fell down the stairs. The container hit the furnace, sparking the fire. The Omaha Fire Department has confirmed those details. Officials said gas was being improperly stored in five-gallon, plastic water containers. The vapors from the spilled gas ignited upon reaching the pilot light of the furnace. The fire has been ruled an accident.
Click here to read more about Merlin Gardner.
Three other people were inside the home when the fire erupted. Two were taken to the hospital and have since been released.
“We became a little lax on how we treat it, it's always there, and you forget about it, people treat it like it's a can of water sitting there,” Dave Gray said. Gray is the Branch Manager at Total Tool and Supply near 90th and L Street.
Gray said gasoline has become commonplace and mishandled which means the liquid is still just as dangerous. "It would probably be a good idea to wear some sort of protection, face protection, safety glasses as always, gloves you can almost overkill it, it is still a harmful chemical,” Gray said.
Storing gasoline is just as important a safety issue Gray said. "The different colors kind of dictate diesel, gasoline, what they are made to have stored in them, it's actually not called a gas can, and it's called a safety can,” Gray said.
Gray explained traditional plastic gas cans are not as safe as metal safety cans; each one has built in safety components to help reduce the risk of fire or explosion. “The big thing is the way they seal on top, they've got, and it's a sealed lid spring loaded, keeps it tight and sealed in,” Gray said.
In the end, Gray said there are warnings on gas and safety cans for a reason, gasoline is dangerous when mishandled or improperly stored. "If you think about it, it really makes sense that you get out of your house or in some sort of safe storage containment,” Gray said.
Omaha police are investigating any foul play connected with the fire. Merlin Gardner died from injuries he suffered in the explosion and fire on Tuesday. His family is raising money to help pay for funeral expenses. Donations can be made to the Kremer funeral home.