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'I’m the daughter of the people who used to live there'

Friday, March 14, 2008 | 5:51 p.m. CDT; updated 3:11 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

COLUMBIA — Linda Sneed clutched her driver’s license at the end of McNab Drive on Friday afternoon, a few feet from what remained of her childhood home.

The house she grew up in at 308 McNab Drive had been leveled by an explosion less than two hours before with her parents inside.

“I’m the daughter of the people who used to live there,” she said.

Carl Sneed, 87, was killed, and his wife, Merna Sneed, 84, was rescued from the rubble of the house the two shared at about 11:21 a.m. Friday.

About an hour after the explosion, Merna Sneed, who was transported to University Hospital with burns covering 30 percent of her body, had regained consciousness and was talking to investigators Friday afternoon.

Linda Sneed arrived at the house after visiting her mother at the hospital. Standing next to police tape, she gazed down at the ground as a police officer approached her.

“I was there yesterday and I didn’t smell anything,” she said of early speculation that the cause of the explosion was natural gas.

Battalion Chief Steven Sapp of the Columbia Fire Department said natural gas is a possible cause of the explosion, though not the only one.

Mike Cleary, a spokesman for AmerenUE, said the last time maintenance workers visited the home was in 2002 for a problem with the automatic meter, not for a gas leak.

Cleary said Ameren had not received many calls for service from the East Campus neighborhood. He added that, of the calls Ameren received, few were about gas leaks.

He said the company had already checked its response logs and had found that the last call from the neighborhood was March 4 to report a natural gas outage on Cliff Drive.

Before that, a service truck was sent to the neighborhood Jan. 9 to check on a report of a meter outage.

“Everything else in that neighborhood has been fine,” Cleary said.

Most of the homes along winding Cliff Drive are older, some dating back to the 1940s.

According to the Boone County Assessor’s Web site, the three-bedroom, one-bath house was built in 1956. It had a total of 1,196 square feet.

Cleary said Ameren’s responsibilities do not include checking or repairing heating or gas equipment in a customer’s home.

“Our responsibility is making sure that the gas reaches the home and the meter is working,” he said. “From our standpoint, an older house might have older equipment, but our responsibility is the main line.”

The main line was not damaged by the explosion, said Fred Luetkemeier, supervisor of Ameren’s gas operations in Columbia.

“The rest of the system is up and running,” he said.

Ben Trutken, a firefighter who responded to the explosion, suffered minor burn injuries. He was treated and released for duty Friday, according to a news release.

Linda Sneed said her father was elderly and that she knew he didn’t have much time left.

“Every time I left, I made sure to say goodbye,” she said.

Linda Sneed said recovery would be difficult for her mother, who worked for years with the Friends of the Columbia Public Library.


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