Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Henderson, Nev., said Thursday that most church members escaped serious injury and their homes sustained only minor damage as a result of the explosions Wednesday in a family-owned rocket fuel plant that left one person dead and about 250 injured.
Presidents of the three Henderson stakes expressed sadness over the loss of the business for the Gibson family, which began the Pacific Engineering and Production Co. about 30 years ago. Several members of the family, including state Sen. James I. Gibson, D-Henderson, held high positions within the church.Many church members had no worse than minor cuts to themselves and broken windows to their homes in the series of explosions that began just before noon Wednesday. Some families, however, were not so fortunate.
Robert Thayer was unable to answer a reporter's questions about his escape from the plant after being trapped under a collapsed building because his eardrums were apparently injured in the accident.
"I can't hear you," Thayer finally said during a telephone interview from his Henderson home after several attempts to understand the questions.
Thayer's wife, Jenny, said her husband and son, Dave, were trapped inside separate buildings that were felled by the first explosion. The pair managed to crawl away from the plant, and were blown along by subsequent explosions before reaching rescue workers.
She said she was at home when the explosions occurred and it was more than an hour before she knew her husband and son were safe.
"I was terrified," she said. "As soon as I saw where the cloud was, I knew what it was. I didn't know how anyone could live through it."
Besides being unable to hear, the elder Thayer also has bruises and cuts from the accident. The son also suffered bruises and cuts.
Of the three stakes in Henderson, the hardest hit was the Green Valley Stake, which encompasses an affluent area of newer homes built around a country club.
Green Valley Stake President Roger Hunt said every one of the approximately 80 percent of stake members contacted sustained some damage to their homes, including potentially serious structural damage.
"You drive down the streets and almost every garage door was buckled or blown in off its hinges. The windows were all blown off as a rule," Hunt said.
Bishops in all three LDS wards spent much of Wednesday night trying to nail plywood over the broken windows and bent doors of their ward members. Hot food and baby-sitting was to be made available to members trying to clean up after the disaster.