Waukee, IA – Christina Smith, Des Moines Register

Becky Jo Kuehl wasn’t supposed to be home Monday morning. Relatives say she typically left her Dallas County farm residence to exercise every day between 8 and 10 a.m.

On Monday, she apparently decided to stay home.

Kuehl was killed when an explosion believed to be caused by a natural gas leak ripped through her brick ranch home northwest of Waukee about 10 a.m. The ferocious blast leveled the house, leaving smoke and a pile of debris.

Sheriff’s officials said Kuehl’s husband, Bruce, was outdoors when the home exploded. Bruce Kuehl and an unidentified family friend tried to go into the fiery remains of the house to save Becky Jo Kuehl, but they were driven back by smoke and heat.

Dallas County Chief Deputy Kevin Frederick said relatives told him the Kuehls had smelled what they thought was a gas leak Sunday but apparently decided not to report it to the gas company.

A spokesman for Aquila Inc. of Kansas City, Mo. — the company handles billing and customer inquiries — said a representative went to the Kuehl home last Thursday for a routine inspection of gas connections.

The spokesman, Al Butkus, said that the inspector discovered no problems and that the couple did not report a gas smell.

The Kuehls own the line that delivers natural gas to their home and were in charge of maintenance, Butkus said. Aquila, formerly Peoples Natural Gas, provides customer service to 143,000 households in Iowa, he said.

The state fire marshal’s office will try to determine where in the home the blast originated and what set it off. Experts said the smallest spark — even static electricity of the flick of a light switch — can trigger such an explosion. Investigators declined to comment Monday.

Dozens of Iowans have been injured in natural gas explosions during the past decade, and six have died.