- Associated Press - Friday, December 16, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A teenage girl injured in a house explosion north of Mandan that killed her mother and stepfather is in stable condition after undergoing surgery for a broken back.

Elianna Vazquez, 17, will remain in a Bismarck hospital for at least 10 days after having screws placed in her back, her sister Gina Vazquez told The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/2hF6rGS ). The teen is conscious and talking, but will have to undergo considerable physical therapy, her sister said.

Investigators are investigating the blast but believe a propane gas tank might have been the cause.

Their mother, 58-year-old Elizabeth Howe, died at the scene, while Clyde Howe, 60, died at a local hospital. Elizabeth Howe, who also had a son, was a nurse. Her husband was the father of three adult children and an instrument technician for Minnkota Power Cooperative.

The family’s three dogs were also killed.

Relatives of the Howe family hunted through debris on Thursday morning, looking for valuables, important documents and photographs. The blast scattered debris about 100 feet.

“We’re finding some stuff. We were very lucky in that there wasn’t really a fire,” Gina Vazquez said. “Everything is just everywhere.”

A group of students from Elianna Vazquez’s high school has set up a GoFundMe account that had raised more than $39,000 as of Friday for her medical and essential expenses.

A Christmas tree, called “Ellie’s Tree,” has also been set up in the school lobby, for people to donate goods and gift cards for the injured teen.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating the explosion.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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