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Three dead, three injured in two separate explosions

August 3, 1997

NEMAHA, Iowa (AP) _ Propane leaks may have triggered two separate house explosions in western Iowa, killing three people and injuring three others.

One explosion shook homes in Crescent about 5:30 a.m. Saturday. An elderly woman was killed, but authorities didn’t immediately identify her.

``It looked like someone had picked up the roof, taken out all four walls and spread pieces of them all over the place, then dropped the roof back down,″ said volunteer firefighter Galen Barrett.

About eight hours earlier, an explosion 100 miles away in Nemaha leveled a home, killing two children and injuring three others. Officials said the children, whose ages were not immediately available, were Paul Walmsley and Valorie Wilson.

David Wilson, 34, and two children, Rebecca Walmsley and Jade Avery, were taken to a Sioux City hospital for treatment of burns and smoke inhalation. Their relationships to one another were not immediately known.

Neighbors said the one-story house was engulfed in a fireball that shook them out of bed. Windows were blown out of a number of nearby homes.

``I went upstairs to bed and heard an explosion,″ said Ken Ohrtman, a neighbor. ``I looked out the window and all I could see was sparks. I heard screams, and I hooked up the neighbor’s garden hose.″

The state fire marshal’s office was investigating both explosions, which authorities said may have been caused by leaking propane.

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