Fort Worth explosion: 21 people injured at hotel in central Texas

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — An explosion at a historic Texas hotel in Fort Worth on Monday blew out windows, strewn downtown streets with large chunks of debris from the building and injured 21 people, including one who was in critical condition, authorities said.

The explosion threw doors and entire sections of wall onto the road outside the 20-story hotel, where authorities said rescuers found several people trapped in the basement. Fifteen people were taken to hospitals, including six whose condition was described as “semi-critical” by MedStar, which provides ambulance and emergency medical services in Fort Worth.

More than two dozen rooms were occupied at the Sandman Signature Hotel at the time, officials said. Authorities said they believed a gas leak caused the explosion – which happened in the middle of the afternoon at the start of the work week – and said the hotel was under construction.

“There was debris. There was isolation. There was office furniture,” Charlie Collier, 31, told The Associated Press. He was working nearby when he said he saw a large flash of lightning and what sounded like thunder.

“Everything that was in the first few floors of the building was blown all over the street,” he said.

The Sandman Signature Hotel is located in a vibrant downtown area about a block from the Fort Worth Convention Center. Footage from news helicopters showed firefighters fighting their way through piles of drywall, broken glass and mangled metal that covered the street outside the hotel. Authorities urged people to avoid the area.

Firefighters work at the scene of an explosion at the Sandman Signature Hotel on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Fort Worth, Texas. (Kathy Johnson/Special to The Star-Telegram via AP)

First responders work at the scene after an explosion at the Sandman Signature Hotel on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Cameron Arnold via AP)

First responders work at the scene after an explosion at the Sandman Signature Hotel on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Fort Worth, Texas. (Cameron Arnold via AP)

Craig Troyacek, a spokesman for the Fort Worth Fire Department, said a restaurant in the building was under construction, but said it was not conclusive where the blast occurred.

Rebecca Martinez was among the people in nearby buildings who recalled hearing a loud bang and seeing a wall of dust and debris drifting down the city’s streets. Going outside to see what had happened, she came upon a man and woman leaning against a fire hydrant.

Officials survey an area near the Sandman Signature Hotel after an explosion, Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Fort Worth, Texas.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Officials survey an area near the Sandman Signature Hotel after an explosion, Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

“The man was covered in blood, his face was covered in blood,” Martinez said. “Then I started smelling a strong smell of natural gas and I thought, ‘I might have to get out of here.’

Moments later, she said, authorities evacuated her building and part of the surrounding neighborhood.

Paula Snyder, a delivery driver for UPS, was making a pickup nearby when she said she heard a loud bang and saw a cloud of black smoke. A large piece of metal grating fell under her truck and another fell nearby.

“I jumped up and ran,” she said.

A gray haze blanketed the normally busy streets of downtown Fort Worth as firefighters waded through layers of debris. The remains of the building lay strewn across the street and on top of parked vehicles, and gaping holes were visible in the ground.

Troyacek said investigators are working with federal investigators to determine the cause of the blast. At the scene of the accident, the rescue teams were not able to immediately reach some parts of the building.

“We had reports of people trapped in the basement, and because of the explosion that happened, some of those access areas were either covered or it didn’t feel safe at that time for people to be brought down,” Troyacek said.

Technicians from Atmos Energy, a Dallas-based natural gas distributor, were investigating the blast site Monday. A spokesman for the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator, said an agency inspector was also on the scene and working with local authorities.

Northland Properties Co., the Canadian company that owns the hotel, said in a statement that it was working with officials to determine how the explosion occurred and what damage it caused.

“The safety and well-being of our team members and guests is our priority,” the company said. “We are working with those who have been injured to fully support them at this time.”

According to the hotel’s website, the Sandman Signature Fort Worth Downtown Hotel has 245 rooms and was built in 1920 as the “Waggoner Building,” named for rancher and oilman William Thomas Wagoner. The building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.

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Associated Press reporters Jake Bleiberg in Dallas and Jim Vertuno and Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

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