Father and son injured when church furnace explodes

MARQUAND, Mo. – A father and son were badly burned when a church exploded into flames near Marquand, Missouri about 100 miles south of St. Louis. Mountain View Church was destroyed. It all happened just days before Easter.

Smoke billowed from the ashes of the church Thursday as raindrops landed on the hotspots. Wednesday afternoon, church members Robert and Steven Starkey were working on the furnace when it exploded.

“They were attempting to relight the propane furnace in the basement and apparently it went up and filled the cavity with propane and when it was ignited it blew up,” said Marquand Assistant Fire Chief Phillip Karn. “I’m sure it was terrifying. They’re probably lucky to be alive.”

Robert Starkey, 78, and his son Steven, 43, made it out of the burning building on their own. Debris was scattered for more than 50 feet.

“I was upset, naturally, I hate to hear that about anybody,” said Jim Moore, a friend of the victims.

At last report, Robert Starkey was in satisfactory condition and Steven was listed as critical in the burn unit at Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur. The church may hold Easter services in the church’s gym located next door. Church members have established donation accounts for the men and the church.

“They’re very friendly they’re very helpful beyond that what can I say they’re good people,” Moore said.

Marquand is located approximately 100 miles south of St. Louis in Madison County, Missouri.