Patrick Thomas Rose -- for whom an endowed scholarship will be named at the UNLV School of Medicine -- was 20-years-old when a series of massive explosions at Henderson’s Pacific Engineering & Production Company (PEPCON) forever changed his life.
A NASA case study found that the three May 4, 1988 explosions were the largest domestic, non-nuclear detonations in recorded history, with two of the biggest blasts measuring 3.0 and 3.5 on the Richter scale. Researchers even compared the blowout, which could be felt throughout the Las Vegas Valley, to a 1-kiloton air-blast nuclear blast.
Media reports noted that within a 10-mile radius of the Southern Nevada plant that produced ammonium perchlorate, an oxidizer found in solid fuel rocket boosters used for NASA space shuttles, property damage to businesses and homes hit $74 million.
Shock waves leveled many buildings, and shattered windows, cracked walls and blew off doors. Schools were evacuated. So were nursing homes.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the smoke from the fire, which rose 1,000 feet into the sky, “could be seen as far as 100 miles away.”
The fire preceding the explosions -- that killed two plant employees and injured 370 others -- had caused Rose to stop his small pickup on Henderson’s Lake Mead Drive. He and a friend, who were driving to Lake Mead to spend the day on the water, watched from about 2,000 feet away as heavy dark smoke drifted over the plant.
And then something happened that Rose -- he died in 2017 of a heart attack at the age of 51 -- could never remember during the remainder of his life.
A rock dislodged by one of the blasts, described by the administrator of his estate, attorney Elizabeth J. Foley, as the size of a cannonball, flew through the roof and windshield of his truck, leaving a yawning hole on the left side of Rose’s skull.
“It’s a miracle he survived,” Foley said recently.
Rose’s resulting brain injury, according to his brother, Mike Rose, required retraining himself, with the help of therapists, to read and write and speak, and use one side of his body.
“He would get frustrated because he knew what he wanted to say, but it was difficult for him to do it,” Mike Rose said. “He was self-conscious about it.”
As a result of his injuries, Patrick Rose received a settlement from PEPCON. In his will, he left $600,000 evenly split between three organizations, all of which are linked to medical care -- The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the Wounded Warrior Project and the UNLV School of Medicine.
“His mother had to deal with breast cancer,” Foley said. “And he felt a kinship with Wounded Warriors, military veterans who suffered brain injuries from explosions. He grew up feeling close to UNLV in the community because of athletics and his family believed the school of medicine would be best because of how thankful he was for his medical care, how the school will turn out doctors that stay in Nevada.”
Foley said that Rose could have given two full medical school scholarships with his money, but the decision was made to make his gift in the form of an endowment. Rather than spending Rose’s gift outright, the UNLV Foundation invests these gifts. Each year, a portion of the investment earnings is allocated to support the program or area designated by the endowment donor, and the remaining income is reinvested. The original gift -- the principal -- remains untouched, and it continues to earn interest. As a result , the endowment grows and lives on forever, creating a lasting legacy.