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Church Explosion Injures 32

May 24, 1998

DANVILLE, Ill. (AP) _ An explosion ripped through a church Sunday morning and injured 32 members of the congregation, eight of them seriously.

The blast tore a hole in the side of the First Assembly of God Church during a service attended by about 300 people.

The Rev. Dennis Rogers said the explosion was near the youth section and that many of the injured are teen-agers. The lights went out and smoke filled the building.

``I couldn’t see,″ Rogers said. ``The place was completely darkened by smoke. I told the people to move as quickly and quietly as you can out of the building.″

The cause of the blast was not immediately known.

A woman who lives across the street from the church says she heard the blast from her upstairs bedroom. ``Honest to God, I thought it was a bomb in my garage,″ said Tasia Demos. ``Then I saw police. I saw ambulances.″

Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were called in from Chicago and Springfield, said special agent Jerry Singer.

He said the explosion was being investigated as ``an isolated incident.″

He noted that a bomb explosion on Dec. 30 damaged a church in Oakwood, about 15 miles from Danville, and killed a church volunteer. That blast is still under investigation.

Danville, a blue-collar town of about 34,000, is on the east-central edge of Illinois 120 miles south of Chicago.

Six of the people injured Sunday were admitted to Provena United Samaritans Medical Center in Danville, where they were listed in fair or stable condition. Three others were sent to a hospital in Urbana and their conditions were unknown. The 23 others were treated and released.

Church members gathered afterward in a prayer circle to pray ``that anger would not rule, that we would not ask why, that we would move on,″ Rogers said.

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