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4 Missing, 6 Hurt in Blasts at Nevada Explosives Plant

January 08, 1998| From Associated Press

LOCKWOOD, Nev. — Two powerful blasts that triggered earthquake monitors leveled an explosives plant Wednesday near Reno, leaving four men missing and injuring six, officials said.

Twelve employees were inside the Sierra Chemical Co. plant near Lockwood, about 12 miles east of Reno, when witnesses heard two consecutive booms and saw a large plume of black smoke just before 8 a.m. A 13th employee and a delivery truck driver initially thought missing were not at the plant when it exploded, officials said.

After an initial survey of the site, Washoe County Sheriff Dick Kirkland said there were no obvious signs of survivors lying amid the debris.

"Everything is in a million little bits," Kirkland said. "It just flattened the whole place."

He said the first explosion occurred in an unoccupied building as workers were mixing two chemicals to make a highly explosive material in an adjacent structure. Several employees ran out of the second building seconds before the resulting devastating blast, Kirkland said.

Fearing further explosions, fire officials waited until afternoon for three propane fires to burn themselves out. Sheriff's and fire crews began searching the site in the afternoon to look for survivors and bodies. The search was expected to take some time because the blast and resulting fires were so fierce.

"We haven't located any remains that could be identified as a human being," Kirkland said after the search began.

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