911 recording captured sounds of 2016 bomb attack in Panaca

PIOCHE — In her panicked call to 911, you can hear Tiffany Cluff struggle for breath after running for her life.

You can hear her young daughters screaming.

You can hear their house explode.

A year later, the 911 recording from the July 13 bomb attack in Panaca still echoes in the minds of those who heard it, from Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee to the rookie dispatcher who answered the frantic call from a woman who turned out to be her neighbor.

“I still get chills listening to it because it just reminds me of everything that happened,” Lee said. “I think about it a lot.”

The call came in at 8:10 on a Wednesday night. Alex Grantham was the only dispatcher on duty at the county’s small dispatch center in Pioche, 12 miles north of Panaca. She had only been on the job for about four months.

For a split second, Grantham wondered if she was being pranked, but the sound of the woman’s voice was unmistakable. “Yes, it was real,” Grantham said during a break in her shift on June 13 at the Sheriff’s Office in Pioche.

Over the course of the call, the dispatcher would learn that Cluff and her daughters had fled down the street to a neighbor’s house to call for help after they discovered a suicidal man with a bomb at the back of their house. The man set off his bombs and killed himself while the woman was on the phone to 911, scattering shrapnel and debris across the small town 165 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

“I live in Panaca. It happened about a block and a half away from my parents’ house,” Grantham said. “My first thought was, ‘Get everyone there.’ My second thought was, ‘Is my family OK?’”

Cool under pressure

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office released a recording of the call last month at the request of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

It lasts five minutes and eight seconds and begins with a breathless Cluff saying this: “Somebody showed up at my house with a bomb. He’s going to blow my house up.”

The first explosion can be heard at the one-minute mark, immediately after Grantham asks the woman, “Are you away from the home?”

The second explosion comes 30 seconds later.

Both faint bursts of noise are greeted with screams from Cluff and her children.

On Grantham’s end of the line, you can hear phones ringing in the background as more 911 calls begin to pour in from Panaca.

A short time later, while Grantham is busy on the radio directing the local volunteer fire department to the scene, you can hear Cluff say, quietly and in disbelief, “Somebody blew our house up.”

Through it all, Grantham sounds like dispatchers do: calm and a little detached — all business.

“It is one of the biggest things when they train you,” she said. “You kind of have to shut the emotion off, in a sense. You want to let them know you care, but at the same time, I have to keep it cool. If they are hysterical and you are hysterical, it does not work very well.”

The only casualty

Lee played the 911 call publicly for the first time early this year at an emergency management conference in Las Vegas as part of a talk he gave on the county’s response to the bomb attack. He played the recording again in early June during a similar presentation at the annual Rural Preparedness Summit in Fallon.

The sheriff said it affects him every time he hears it.

“Over the years I have had a handful of 911 calls that were intense, but this one had to be at the top,” said Lee, a Panaca native whose roots there go back to the founding of the community in 1864. “I can’t help but think, ‘Why did more people not get hurt or killed?’”

The only person killed in the attack was its architect. Cluff identified him during the 911 call.

“It was Glenn Jones, Glenn Jones,” the frantic woman said. “He said he was going to kill himself and blow up our house.”

Grantham said she hasn’t gone back to listen to the recording of the call, but she would like to so she can hear how she did.

“I felt like I handled it decently,” she said.

A kick of adrenalin

Grantham got off work that night at about 11:30. She said she was careful to avoid the scene of the bombing on her way home.

“After something that big has happened to a family, it is respectful to leave them and let them do what they need to do,” she said. “It was something pretty big for such a small community.”

Grantham was about five months pregnant at the time, and the call had a physical effect on both her and her unborn baby.

“I tell you what, the adrenalin rush (I) got from that was making her wiggle like mad. It’s the first time I had ever felt her move that much,” she said.

Even so, Grantham insists she had no trouble falling asleep that night.

“I am very good at leaving everything at the door when I go home. It was the same as any other day,” the 24-year-old dispatcher said. “I knew my family was safe. I knew the only person that passed away was the person that created the bomb. It was good to know that everyone that needed to be there was there and that no one else got hurt.”

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Blake Apgar and photographer Elizabeth Brumley contributed to this story.

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