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The children of Jeanne Jasa have accused the city of Lincoln, Lancaster County and natural gas provider Black Hills Energy of negligently causing the wrongful death of the woman who was killed when her house exploded a year ago.

Lincoln police are still investigating the Aug. 14, 2017, blast and have not ruled out foul play. Earlier this month, Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister said his investigators need more time to follow up leads in the case.

But the attorney for Jasa's daughter, Amy Roche, and son, Matt Jasa, laid blame on the city, county and the utility in a tort claim seeking more than $4 million. The tort claim, filed shortly before the anniversary of the explosion, preserves the family's ability to file a civil lawsuit.

Jasa, 66, died Aug. 29, 2017, from burn injuries she sustained in the blast. Her husband, Jimmy Jasa, died from his injuries in hospice care May 2. 

The natural gas explosion at 5601 S. 78th St. damaged 33 other homes and led to a prolonged police and fire investigation into its cause.

Investigators a day after the blast ruled out an external gas leak as the cause, and police concluded natural gas provider Black Hills Energy wasn't responsible.

The Jasas were the only people in the home at the time, and police weren't looking for anyone else in connection with the blast, the chief has said.

But the family, in its seven-page claim filed with the city, said Black Hills infrastructure and its safety and warning devices failed to regulate the natural gas in the home and allowed the house to fill with gas.

"But for the negligent acts of Black Hills, Jeanne would be alive today," attorney Brian Jorde said in the claim.

A spokeswoman for the utility declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Assistant City Attorney Elizabeth Elliott said she has not made a formal decision on the claim, and the pending police probe and review by the Lancaster County Attorney's Office is waiting on her assessment of the case.

"I prefer to have all of the information before I make a decision,” Elliott said.

Elliott said she believes she may have the information she needs in a couple of weeks to make a recommendation to the City Council, which would decide whether to pay or deny the claim.

A civil lawsuit can be filed only if six months have passed from the filing of a tort claim or if the political subdivision has ruled on it.

In an email, Jorde said he represents only the estate of Jeanne Jasa, and her family has not decided whether to file a lawsuit yet.

That decision will be made once the family has been able to review the available evidence, which is limited in part because a lot of evidence was destroyed in the fire, he said.

Asked whether Jeanne Jasa's children believe the fire was caused accidentally, Jorde said the absence of criminal charges against anyone in the case "leads us to believe the city/county does not believe this explosion was anything other than a terrible accident that never should have occurred."

The claim seeks at least $2 million in damages for Jeanne Jasa's pain and suffering, at least $2 million for her wrongful death and at least $75,000 for her medical bills.

The Jasas' children had not filed a similar tort claim on their father's behalf as of Tuesday.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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Reporter

Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

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