Deaths, injuries in Florida jail apparent gas explosion, partial building collapse

By: CBS
By: CBS
An apparent natural gas explosion at a jail in the Florida Panhandle killed two inmates and injured as many as 150 inmates and corrections officers, officials say.

Courtesy: WKRG TV

Pensacola, FL (CBS) - An apparent natural gas explosion at a jail in the Florida Panhandle killed two inmates and injured as many as 150 inmates and corrections officers, officials say.

The explosion, at around 11 p.m. CDT Wednesday in the Escambia County jail's booking facility in Pensacola, caused the building to partially collapse, said Kathleen Castro, the county's public information manager. About 600 inmates were in the building at the time, she said.

Castro told CBS News there was a possibility there had actually been two explosions. She says the second and fourth floors were showing signs of damage.

The explosion could be heard 7 miles away, Castro said. "It sounded like someone drove into my house," a mile and a half away, she added.

Castro didn't know if flooding in the area was a factor but says the jail did get extensive flooding during heavy rains that drenched the region Tuesday and Wednesday. She said the jail was using diesel fuel and generators to keep the power on at the time.

The jail was evacuated, reports CBS Mobile, Ala. affiliate WKRG-TV

The injured were brought to hospitals and the uninjured inmates were brought to jails in neighboring counties, Castro said.

Victims were taken to Sacred Heart Hospital, West Florida Hospital and two Baptist Health Care hospitals in Pensacola and nearby Gulf Breeze.

Vicki Brooks, a spokeswoman for Sacred Heart, said they treated 31 patients with mostly neck and back injuries. Kendrick Doidge said West Florida Hospital treated 37 inmates in the emergency room and all have been released back into the custody of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.

Of the 50 patients taken to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, 12 had been treated and released by Thursday morning, said spokeswoman Liz Branch.

At Gulf Breeze Hospital, 13 of the 31 patients from the explosion were treated and released.

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