Escambia County Jail Gas Explosion Destroys Booking Facility

The Escambia County Jail suffered a large gas explosion, which destroyed a portion of the Booking and Detention Center facilities. Two people were killed and 184 injured at the jail following the explosion.

Witnesses say the sagging floorboards of the second story of the Escambia County Jail were just barely visible through a gaping, jagged hole in the first-floor wall Thursday, testament to the force of an explosion that killed two male inmates and injured 184 other detainees, corrections officers and employees.

David Paul Weinstein, 45, and Robert Earl Simmons, 54, were killed in the blast, and the five-story Escambia County Jail, which housed hundreds of inmates, is likely a total loss, officials said.

The destruction occurred at 11 p.m. Wednesday when a blast caused by leaking natural gas tore through the laundry facility on the first floor of the Central Booking Division. Baptist Hospital facilities in Pensacola and Gulf Breeze, Sacred Heart Hospital and West Florida Hospital emergency rooms were inundated with patients, almost all with non-life threatening injuries.

“It’s pretty much complete destruction,” Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said of the facility at a Thursday news conference.

Approximately 600 people were in the building when the blast went off, county spokesman Bill Pearson said. People living in neighborhoods miles away from the facility reported hearing the boom.

Pearson said late Thursday afternoon that every single person in the facility had been accounted for. At that time, all but two of the surviving inmates and one corrections officer had been treated and released from the hospital.

The two men who were killed were found in close proximity to each other near a large amount of debris, Morgan said.

Investigators from the Public Florida Service Commission, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the explosion. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the deaths of the inmates.

At the news conference outside the jail Thursday, officials had few answers to the how or why the explosion occurred.




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