Home explosion being treated as criminal investigation

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -- The investigation into a home explosion on Aug. 14 in Lincoln is still ongoing.

During a briefing to the media in August, the chief of police stated that the situation is being evaluated as a criminal investigation, until that scenario can be ruled out.

Police and investigators will examine evidence seized, as well as evaluate financial digital records.

The blast, which occurred at roughly 4:30 p.m. at 5601 S. 78th Street., injured Jim and Jeanne Jasa, who were transported to the hospital with life threatening injuries.

An external gas leak was ruled out by fire inspectors on Tuesday afternoon.

“I've been doing this 32 years and this is the worst gas explosion I've ever seen,” Moody said on Tuesday. “Usually we have a roof come off, a shift on the foundation, a wall comes out, but the total devastation and the damage to the adjacent structures.”

In addition, Lincoln Police have confirmed 43 homes have damage following Monday's home explosion.

Of those homes, 19 have structural damage. Damage ranges from cracks to ceilings and walls to completely destroyed. Some houses had windows exploded.

Lincoln Fire and Rescue said three of the homes are currently uninhabitable.

Lincoln Police said Tuesday evening that the property and area around it has been secured for safety, and that specialized staff continue to search the scene.

Police said officers will remain there throughout Wednesday until processing is completed.

But while investigators work to figure out the exact cause of the explosion, many people are left in limbo.

The street is still closed, and some families have only been able to get inside their homes for a few minutes to grab necessities.

One woman who lives close by was mostly at a loss for words as her eyes were darting around, looking at the damage from the blast around her.

Deena Horby said she's feeling a variety of emotions, mostly a lot of sadness.

"Structurally, I can go in and get some personal things to bring out, but it is not livable at this time," Horby said.

Horby said she only took a few things, like extra contact lenses and some paper work, some medications and some jewelry.

She said she's having trouble wrapping her head around how so many things are destroyed while some things look like they haven't been touched.

Like Horby, Jerry Hovelsrud's phone has been ringing off the hook, as assessors and insurers are all telling him his home is unlivable.

"We have walls that have moved off the foundation in four or five spots and we have five broken windows."

Luckily, Hovelsrud, his wife, two sons and daughter, were all out of the home during the blast, and their dog is okay.

Jerry's son, Easton, was the first family member to the scene yesterday.

"We couldn't get into it because the doors were pressed shut, so he kicked the door in and got the dog out," Hovelsrud said.

Walking through the home you'll see shattered glass, and pictures that were once hung up are now on the ground.

"It looked like a tornado went through it, it's crazy, it's chaos it's just insane how fast life comes at you," Easton Hovelsrud said.

It's going to take several months before the family can move back in, but they know it could have been worse.

"But the biggest thing for me is that we're all safe and hopefully they're ok. All of this can wait, that's the most important thing," Hovelsrud said.

LFR said on top of the flames and debris, ammunition inside the home started exploding after crews arrived.

Jeff Hoham lives just a few doors down from the now demolished home.

He had just returned from his coaching job at Lincoln East.

When he heard what he described as the sound of a plane crash, he told his son to grab his shoes and they both ran outside when they were met by an off-duty fireman who also lives in the area.

When they arrived on scene, Hoham said they weren't prepared for what they saw.

"I've not seen people burned like that ever, so it was an image that I don't know if I can explain," Hoham said. "But I knew they were hurt and there was intense fire, and I just kept think is there anyone else and you don't think you just react."