The person who died over the weekend when a recreational vehicle caught fire has been identified as a 56-year-old Omaha man, police said Monday.
Ben A. Mairs III was pronounced dead in an RV parked outside 5422 S. 17th St.
Douglas County Court records show Mairs was wanted on suspicion of failing to appear on a charge of felony possession of methamphetamine.
Richard Sterba, 48, called 911 shortly after 1 a.m. to report a recreational vehicle that was engulfed in flames at the side of the house. Sterba said Mairs had been staying in the trailer for about two weeks.
“I met him through his brother, who died recently, and I’ve known him at least six years,” Sterba said. “Ben was on disability for psychological problems and was staying in the RV until he found a place to live.”
Sterba said he didn’t know Mairs was wanted by police.
“He was a good guy,” Sterba said. “He’d do anything for you.”
The Omaha Fire Department has not issued a report on the cause of the fire.
Sterba said he suspects the fire was caused by propane tanks his friend apparently used to warm up the RV. Sterba said the RV was originally parked farther away from the house, but he asked his friend to move it closer so he could plug in an electric heater.
“He was using propane, and I had told him that it was not safe,” Sterba said.
Sterba said he thinks his friend continued to use the propane because the Omaha Fire Department later found several propane tanks in the RV.