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2-Year-Old Killed, Mother Critically Hurt in Gas Explosion

September 15, 1986

BELLEVUE, Neb. (AP) _ An explosion triggered by a natural gas leak destroyed a house Monday, killing a 2-year-old girl and critically injuring her mother, authorities said.

Two workmen installing a new sewer line near the one-story wood-frame house also were injured.

Debris was thrown up to 200 yars from the house by the blast, which was heard five miles away, and five other houses were damaged.

A contractor digging in the area ruptured an underground gas service line that leads into the house, said Metropolitan Utilities District spokesman Dave Barber.

The line was severed about 10 minutes before the 10:23 a.m. blast, said Police Chief Hines Smith.

″The concrete foundation and the hot-water heater were the only two things that you could distinguish what they were,″ Smith said.

The body of Starlyn Beck was found in the rubble shortly after noon. Her 36-year-old mother, Deborah, was in critical condition at St. Joseph Hospital with third-degree burns over 90 percent of her body.

The workmen, Randy Nelson and Ron Walker, were in fair condition at St. Joseph Hospital.

Starlyn was in the house and her mother was outside when the explosion occurred, said Sarpy County Sheriff Pat Thomas. The child had been on oxygen for treatment of a congenital heart condition, Thomas said.

Mrs. Beck’s three sons were in school and her husband out of town when the blast occurred.

Gary Kafka, an off-duty Omaha firefighter, said he and his wife were visiting family members when they heard the explosion and ran to the house.

″My wife was pulling the woman out of the wreckage and trying to keep her from going back for her baby,″ he said. ″She kept saying, ‘My baby’s in there,’ and was trying to tell us the location of the child.″

Kafka said the fire that followed the blast was too large to do anything but get out of the way and avoid a second explosion.

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