Victim of nearby house explosion battles insurer for coverage

Published: Jan. 13, 2020 at 7:37 PM CST
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Imagine coming home from work and finding cracks and gaps that make your house almost unlivable. That happened to a homeowner near the scene of a fatal explosion in Benson three and a half years ago. But why does his house still look the same?

The gas explosion in July 2016 killed one, destroyed a rental house, and damaged several neighboring homes.

Bill Muddle an explosion neighbor said, “The ceiling had cracked from the explosion so it was hanging down.”

Bill Muddle lives three doors down from the explosion scene that left about $52,000 in repairs on his house.

In Bill’s kitchen, you can see a gap that goes all the way around where the top part of his house from the explosion went up and came back down but it didn't fall evenly.

For more than three years Bill has been patching his home while believing SafeCo insurance, which had the policy on the house that exploded, would eventually pay his repair bill.

But a reply from SafeCo states, “After a thorough investigation we have concluded our insured has no negligence associated with this incident. We will not compensate you for your damages.” There’s no explanation why.

Muddle said, “They think I’m a little guy on a fixed budget I ain’t going to fight them, I can’t afford to fight them so I’m screwed.”

Bill says after a hail claim many years ago his homeowner's insurance dropped him but hazard coverage through his mortgage company provided $6,000 for explosion damage. He’s been on his own trying to collect the rest from SafeCo.

Muddle said, “It’s aggravating when you can’t afford to fight them.”

Habitat for Humanity built three new homes on and next to the explosion site so on the exterior neighborhood wounds appear to have healed. But they fester inside Bill Muddle’s house leaving a deep crack in his sense of fairness.

Muddle said, “No it wasn’t any fault of mine.”

We asked a SafeCo spokesman how many other neighbors filed claims that have been approved or denied. He responded the company doesn’t publicly comment on details of customer’s claims. Bill Muddle tells us he plans to file a complaint with the Nebraska Department of Insurance. He wants an investigation into why SafeCo and its parent company Liberty Mutual denied his claim even though they held a policy on the house that exploded.

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