MS – The Sun Herald – Fire investigators have concluded that a propane gas explosion is what caused an April 7 fire that killed an Oktibbeha County woman and left her husband severely burned.

The Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department and State Fire Marshal’s Office, in a statement issued Monday, ruled the fire at the home of Eugene and Bernice Bell was accidental.

Bernice Bell, 72, died in the fire.

Eugene Bell, 79, was in critical condition Wednesday at the Mississippi Firefighters Memorial Burn Center in Greenville. Funeral services for Bernice Bell were held Tuesday.

Investigators said Bell told authorities that on the night of the fire, he awoke to the smell of propane gas. Bell told the investigators that he went to see if the stove had been left on.

When he turned on the light, he heard an explosion, and the house caught on fire, Bell told the investigators. Evidence found among the remains of the home was consistent with Bell’s account of the fire, investigators said.

Authorities said Eugene Bell was found outside the home by firefighters upon arrival. After flames were extinguished, Bernice Bell’s body was found in the remains of the front room of the house, which did not have a floor. She died from smoke inhalation, investigators said.

A 500-gallon propane tank is located close to the Bell home. A new house was being constructed next to the old one, but the home under construction did not sustain any damage from the blaze.

Firefighters were able to shield the propane tank from exploding, officials said.