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Inspector Dies, 2 Hospitalized in Omaha, Nebraska, Home Explosion

OMAHA, Neb. — A woman who was killed when a house exploded in Omaha was a property inspector sent to check the home after a tenant was evicted, authorities said Tuesday.

Clara Bender, 30, was fatally injured in the blast just after noon Monday in Omaha's Benson neighborhood. The explosion leveled the home, badly damaged four adjacent homes, and injured a woman who lived next door and a 14-year-old boy. Bender died after being taken to Nebraska Medical Center, authorities said.

It's unclear whether the evicted tenant has been questioned or if the explosion was being criminally investigation. Omaha police didn't return repeated requests for comment Tuesday.

Police and local fire officials are investigating, and Omaha Fire Battalion Chief Tim McCaw pleaded that anyone with information about the blast contact the city's arson hotline.

Image:
Law enforcement investigators in Omaha, Neb., look for clues July 26, at the scene of a house where an explosion took place on Monday. Nati Harnik / AP

Police also haven't released the conditions or details about the 46-year-old neighbor and the teenage boy who were hospitalized following the blast. Officials at Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton Medical Center did not immediately return messages seeking information about the two on Tuesday.

Bender, who worked for Certified Property Management, was at the home to check on its condition after allowing a tenant who was evicted this month to enter the property over the weekend to collect personal items, company president Jeremy Aspen said.

"We loved Clara," he said. "She was just the sweetest person ... and the hardest worker."

Bender had worked for the company since November, and was married with a young child, Aspen said. He said her husband was "having a rough go right now."

Aspen said his company has turned over all its documents regarding the property and any contact with the former tenant to police. He said officials have not given him any indication about whether the explosion was being investigated as a criminal matter.

"There's a lot of stuff that could have happened," Aspen said. "Foul play is a possibility. But just as possible is that there was a gas leak or somebody removed a stove or bumped it on accident or any number of things."