Officials: Searches find nobody in blast-damaged Nevada dorm


Rescue personnel respond to an explosion that damaged Argenta Hall and Nye Hall on the University of Nevada, Reno campus on Friday, July 5, 2019, in Reno, Nev. A utilities explosion Friday at the University of Nevada, Reno caused the partial collapse of a dormitory building and at least minor injuries, authorities said. (Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP)

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Thorough searches of a mostly empty University of Nevada, Reno, dormitory that was heavily damaged by an explosion found nobody inside and all students accounted for, officials said Saturday.

The cause of the Friday explosion that blew out windows and did other damage to multiple floors of Argenta Hall remained under investigation.

Meanwhile, the university worked to find substitute housing for hundreds of students expected in the fall. In the meantime, about 200 students have been displaced, the university said on social media.

“We have a long-term event ahead of us,” said Todd Renwick, university police chief.

The university has said a mechanical failure was the suspected cause of the blast.

Several feet of water was pumped from the basement, but State Fire Marshal Bart Chambers said investigators couldn’t check the boiler area of the seven-story building until they get clearance by a structural engineer.

“We want to make sure the structure is safe and sound for everyone,” including investigators, Chambers said.

Eight people suffered minor injuries, and only two required brief treatment at a hospital. The others were treated at the scene.

While the explosion and its aftermath was a “harrowing experience” for those involved, “we feel extremely fortunate and grateful that there were no major injuries or fatalities,” said Kevin Carman, the university’s executive vice president and provost.

Argenta Hall houses up to 750 students. But it was mostly empty on Friday, the day after a holiday during the university’s summer session.

Steven Leighton, the Reno Fire Department’s operations chief, said emergency personnel on Friday did two searches of Argenta and Nye Hall, an adjacent structure that also was damaged. Another search was conducted Saturday, he said.

“We searched every floor, every room, every inch of that building,” Leighton said, referring to Argenta.

Carman said Argenta’s summer occupants were relocated to other quarters and their essential belongings were being retrieved from the building.

The explosion displaced about 200 students, the university said in a social media post seeking donations of clothing, phone chargers, toiletries and other items from Reno-area residents.

The future availability of Argenta hasn’t been determined but it’s assumed it’ll be unavailable for occupancy in the fall and substitute accommodations will have to be found, Carman said.

“At this time we do not have a plan for doing that,” he said. “We’ll care for each other and we will work together to get back to normal on our campus as quickly as possible.”

The fall semester starts in late August.


Davenport reported from Phoenix.

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