Explosions rock small Lincoln County town

explosions 1
On July 13 at approximately 8 p.m., in the quiet, peaceful town of Panaca, the residents on North 5th Street and surrounding areas went through a horrific experience when two devastating bombs exploded.

The explosions were part of a suicide by Glenn Franklin Jones, 59, a former Panaca resident who worked as a nurse at Grover C. Dils Medical Center. “Mr. Jones died from a gunshot wound of the head,” Clark county Coroner John Fudenberg said in a statement. “Blunt force injuries from the explosion also contributed to his death, which has been ruled a suicide. We believe Mr. Jones shot himself after igniting the explosive device(s).”

One other person suffered minor injuries that were treated at the scene. Incredibly, no other injuries occurred.
Neighbors in the immediate area were startled, wondering what could have caused such blasts. It turned out to be a bomb planted in a car parked outside the home of Joshua and Tiffany Cluff. A second bomb was planted in the house.

Panaca resident Richard Katschke, who lives about 300 feet away, said he and his wife were preparing for bed when they were startled by the first explosion.

“In Panaca, we’re used to sonic booms, dynamite on the 24th,” Katschke said the morning after the incident. “This was magnitudes greater than that. It just shook our home and left us very shaken.”

Residents reported the blasts shook homes for blocks. The vehicle was completely destroyed, as was much of the Cluffs’ home. “It’s just pushed in, and there’s a hole on one side,” Katschke said. “It’s just structurally beyond repair. It’s not a rubble heap, but it won’t be long before it is.”

Surrounding homes were also damaged. “The house across the street had the windows blown out,” Katschke said, adding that an older home south of the explosion is “basically not liveable.” Fragments of metal and other debris were scattered around the explosion site over about a one-mile radius and even lodged into the sides of homes. One household reported a piece of automobile had fallen through their roof and landed in their living room.

“There’s shrapnel all around town,” Katschke said.

Glenn Wadsworth was mowing the lawn at his father’s home, which neighbors the Cluffs’ house less than 50 feet away. Wadsworth said he heard the boom and as saw a large ball of fire. He was not injured. “My immediate first reaction was to help,” he said.

Wendell Cowart, the other immediate neighbor, was in his home with his wife Suzy when it happened. Both were uninjured. “That’s more than we can say about our home,” Cowart said. He thought he smelt C-4, a common explosive material. “It was no accident,” he said the night of the blasts. He immediately had his garden hose on the fire until the first responders arrived, while Wadsworth covered the remains of the deceased person.

The next day, Wadsworth realized how lucky he and others were not to have been hurt. “I am more shaken today when I realize how close I was and how powerful the explosion was,” he said. “It is a miracle there were no injuries to anyone but the bomber as pieces of debris flew with such power. One piece actually flew through our home right past my father’s head.”

Clint Jenson, who lives kitty-corner to the Cluff’s, saw debris of the car explosion stuck into the side of his home, one piece going through his roof. His basement window is broken and the the entire structure of the house is unbalanced. But “nothing compared to the closer neighbors’ damage,” said Jenson. “It really is a miracle with the amount and power of the debris that came down that no one was seriously hurt.”

Residents for up to three blocks surrounding the explosion were evacuated until a day-long sweep by local, state and national law enforcement agencies determined is was safe for them to return to their homes.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval left a conference in Iowa to visit Panaca on Friday. He met with first responders, surveyed the destruction and attended a community meeting. He expressed his support, stating he would do “whatever it takes” to help the community recover from this devastation. Sandoval gave much praise to first responders and local authorities. “If there is a book on how to deal with a devastation like this, Lincoln County has it,” he said.

The Cluffs, who have three daughters, were all accounted for and unharmed.

Josh was at work at the Caliente Youth Center when the explosion happened. According to a fellow employee, he received a phone call at approx 8 p.m. and left immediately. Tiffany was apparently home with the children when they were warned to leave by Jones.

Josh Cluff released the following statement to The Record: “More than anything, I want to give a thanks to the community and the surrounding communities, first responders, local law enforcement and other agencies that came to our community in this crisis.

“I also want to thank God for watching over my family and watching over this community.

“A special thanks to those who have reached out to my family. We’re just grateful to still have each other and to be alive.”

Both Josh and Tiffany were at one time fellow employees with Jones at Grover C. Dils. The Associated Press reported Josh was Jones’ supervisor, and Jones’ employment was terminated due to mishandling of narcotics.

State records show that Jones was certified as a licensed practical nurse in Nevada since 1993. On March 24 2016, at a hearing in Reno, the State Board of Nursing stripped Jones of his nursing license. The Board barred him for reapplying for his license for five years. Jones did not attend the disciplinary hearing.

The Cluffs remained acquaintances with Jones. After his termination, he helped the Cluffs remodel their house,”
said Danette Sanders, also a resident of Panaca. Sanders, who was acquainted with Jones, said “he appeared to be a very nice man, very friendly. I would never of expected this from him.” She mentioned that Jones had lost his wife to cancer before moving to Panaca and most recently his mother passed away.

Rose Lanigan Panaca residents help board up windows of a neighboring home that was damaged in the July 13 explosions.

Rose Lanigan
Panaca residents help board up windows of a neighboring home that was damaged in the July 13 explosions.

Most people in Lincoln County that knew Jones said he was a friendly man that kept to himself, and was a little odd.

Floyd Jackson, a resident of Panaca and social acquaintance of Jones stated, “I saw him about an hour before the explosion, talked to him, and I didn’t see any sign that he was upset, at all. He said he was going to Ely.”

Cathy Povis, a nurse at Grover C. Dils who lives in Panaca, stated, “He was really nice. I knew him fairly well. He treated my son well. He taught him how to sight his scope on his rifle. He took him target practicing at the shooting range. We had him over to dinner on my son’s birthday. He gave my son a birthday present every year. He was very friendly with my family.”

Jones was a firearms and explosives enthusiast, according to several residents. A business card that Jones handed out in the community read “Military Collector: Inert Rockets, Practice Bombs, Munitions and Heavy Ordinance. Glenn Jones” and then listed a phone number. Officials have still not reported what kind of explosive device was used in Panaca. “We have an idea, but we’re still trying to put the pieces together to find what exactly caused explosions of such magnitude,” said Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee.

Jones most recently resided at an RV Park in northwest Arizona. On Thursday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported authorities in that area discovered a large amount of explosive material at his motorhome and storage shed.

The police department in Kingman ordered residents of the Zuni Village RV Park to vacate their homes. According to police, a number of improvised explosive devices were found inside a motorhome believed to belong to Jones earlier in the week.

“My investigators are describing them as improvised explosive devices. They said that numerous have been located, as well as multiple items that could be used to make explosive devices,” said Deputy Rusty Cooper, according to Fox 5 Las Vegas.

A total of 15 improvised devices of various sizes and designs were located, police said. During processing, 10 of the 15 explosives were rendered safe in a nearby field. The remaining five, which are larger, were planned to be detonated at a different location, Fox 5 reported.

The motorhome was removed and secured as evidence. The FBI is now investigating the case.
Residents were able to return to their homes at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.

While the investigation into Jones and what possessed him to do what he did continues, community members are picking up the pieces and moving forward, grateful that nobody else was killed.

“The community of Panaca has joined together, grown stronger and will recover from this devastation,” Lee said.
Panaca 1st Ward LDS Bishop Tyler Heaton stated, “I am truly amazed at the overwhelming support being offered.
What’s really weird is I haven’t seen anyone in our community being bitter or angry, no negativity, just concern in helping and outreaching. It is truly a blessing. It is quite apparent that we are being watched over.”

Panaca will celebrate Pioneer Day, as planned, tomorrow. Nellis Air Force Base will be joining Panaca with a tribute in honoring the sheriff’s department and local fire department for their performance as they responded to this unthinkable event that occurred in the quiet town of Panaca.

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