Explosion at Texas hotel injures 20, scatters debris in Fort Worth

FORT WORTH: An explosion at a historic Texas hotel on Monday injured more than 20 people and trapped some in the basement before they were found by rescue crews, authorities said. One person was in critical condition.
Fort Worth Fire Department spokesman Craig Trojacek said investigators are confident the blast was “some kind of gas explosion.” The 20-story Sandman Signature hotel in the heart of downtown Fort Worth was undergoing construction.
Investigators believe the blast was caused by natural gas, said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesperson Sara Abel.
Medics also treated four more people on the scene but did not take them to a hospital, said Desiree Partain of MedStar, which provides ambulance and emergency medical services in Fort Worth.
The Sandman Signature hotel is in a busy area of downtown about one block from the Fort Worth Convention Center. Footage from news helicopters showed firefighters picking their way through the piles of drywall, shattered glass and mangled metal that coated the street outside the hotel. Authorities urged people to avoid the area.
“There is a smell of gas in the area and there are windows and things that were blown outside of the structure,” said Craig Trojacek, a spokesman for the Fort Worth Fire Department.
Trojacek said a restaurant in the building had been under construction but said it was not definitive that is where the blast occurred.
Video posted to social media showed a man sitting on a street corner across from the explosion site and holding a woman at his chest. The man appeared to have blood on his forehead, and a medical technician knelt in front of him to tend to his wounds.
A grey haze covered normally busy streets of downtown Fort Worth as firefighters walked through layers of debris. Remnants of the building lay scattered across the street and over parked vehicles, and gaping holes could be seen on the ground.
Texas state Rep Nicole Collier, whose district office is about eight blocks from the hotel, said she didn’t hear the explosion but heard the sirens of responding emergency vehicles and helicopters overhead. Collier said she tried walking toward the site but emergency responders had already closed several blocks and were warning people to stay away.
According to the hotel website, the Sandman Signature Fort Worth Downtown Hotel has 245 rooms and was built in 1920 as the “Waggoner Building,” named after cattle rancher and oilman William Thomas Waggoner. The building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.
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