Concerned neighbors who couldn't reach a 91-year-old man for several days entered his home Thursday and found his body on a bed and gas escaping from a stove, police said.
Authorities said the gas eventually would have ignited the pilot light on a wall heater and caused a major explosion.
"There was no question that this had the potential of being quite disastrous for the entire apartment complex," police Sgt. Frank Hauptmann said. "It's a good thing that the neighbors went to check on the couple."
The man's 82-year-old wife was taken to UCI Medical Center and appeared to be suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Authorities did not release the couple's name because their relatives have not been notified.
"We really don't know what we have at this point. . . . She couldn't tell us a whole lot out of confusion," Hauptmann said. "It looks like he died of natural causes, but we're not sure."
About 1:30 p.m., two neighbors went to check on the couple at their home in the 11200 block of Steele Drive and discovered the man's body, police said.
"Some neighbors tried to get her out, but she wouldn't leave her husband, so they called 911," Hauptmann said.
Jean Kanter, a 63-year-old neighbor who discovered the body, said she had been trying to contact the couple since Monday, when the man returned from the hospital after suffering from some heart problems.
"I kept knocking on the door and there would be no answer," Kanter said. "We all became very concerned because we kept seeing their papers out front."
On Thursday, still unable to contact her neighbors, Kanter said she went to a bedroom window and knocked on the window pane.
"His wife told me that she's OK . . . but that he's awfully cold," Kanter said. "That's when we went in and smelled gas."
The neighbors turned off the gas and called police.
Authorities said they don't believe foul play was a factor in the man's death.