A fireball exploded over the swimming pool of the hotel, critically burning two people and showering dozens of others with broken glass.
The Embassy Suite's general manager says a gas line feeding the heater for the swimming pool may have been responsible. Witnesses say they smelled gas before and after the blast which blew through an exterior wall and the hotel gift shop.
A contractor who was servicing the heater at the time was seriously burned and had to be airlifted out. Nine people, including five children, were taken to a hospital with minor injuries. One boy was treated at another hospital. About two dozen people were treated at the scene for cuts caused by flying glass.
A 12-year-old who was swimming underwater at the time says she had her eyes open "and the water all went black."
|An outdoor patio showed the worst damage.|
The blast took place shortly before 7 p.m. in a ground floor equipment room of the Embassy Suites hotel, which had opened Tuesday but remained under construction.
One eyewitness said he personally pulled five burned or bloody survivors from the wreckage. Many of those were children who had been in the pool at the time of the blast.
Stacie Duncan was in a glass elevator overlooking the pool when the explosion took place. "I saw people just running and panicking. I saw children with glass stuck in their legs screaming for their parents," she said.
Witnesses said before the blast they smelled a strong odor of natural gas coming from an equipment room believed to house the pool's heating system.
The hotel, at least 10 stories tall, was evacuated and guests were told they would be transferred to another facility.