It's a question many people are asking: Why would anyone store gasoline inside a home?
Spilled gas led to an explosion and fire at 3710 Fowler Ave. last month that killed two men, injured three others and left Joseph Mangiamelli, 42, fighting for his life with severe burns. He remained in critical condition Wednesday at the Nebraska Medical Center.
His sisters, Charlene Mangiamelli-Welch, 39, and Sherry Smith, 45, both of Omaha, said at the hospital that they had no idea that gasoline was being stored improperly in the home.
They said they don't know why it was being kept in 5-gallon plastic containers in the basement.
The gas spilled and ignited Oct. 16, Omaha police said. Smith's nephew, Billy Boyer, 39, and Mangiamelli-Welch's uncle, Merlin Gardner, 66, died after the blast.
Joseph Mangiamelli has battled numerous infections and undergone a series of surgeries, the sisters said, including a skin-graft procedure Wednesday. They said doctors have given their brother a 30 percent chance of surviving.
“Joe was the type of person who would do anything for you.'' said Mangiamelli-Welch.
Joseph Mangiamelli, Gardner and Boyer were among six people inside the home at the time of the explosion.
One gas container ruptured as it was being carried down the stairs, probably by Boyer. Vapors from the spilled gasoline were ignited by the pilot light on the natural gas furnace, investigators concluded.
Boyer, Gardner and Mangiamelli were trapped in the basement.
“If gas was being stored there'' and Mangiamelli was aware of it, “my brother wouldn't have stayed there,'' Mangiamelli-Welch said.
Smith said she had been to the house several times, including just days before the explosion. “I never smelled gas.''
Around-the-clock support at the hospital is taking a financial and emotional toll on the family, the sisters said.
“We've had two burials and now Joe's care,'' Smith said. “Everything's a mess. We don't know where to go.''
They're holding a $10-per-person spaghetti feed from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Power Landing Building, 7230 Florence Blvd. A fund for Mangiamelli has been established at Pinnacle Bank under Smith's name, she said.
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