Florida jail explosion kills 2, injures 100

PENSACOLA, Fla. — An apparent gas explosion rocked a jail in the Florida Panhandle late Wednesday, killing two inmates, injuring more than 100 other people, and causing the building to partially collapse, according to a county spokeswoman.

At the blast site Thursday morning, glass was strewn about on the ground in front of the jail. The front of the building appeared bowed out, with cracks throughout.

The explosion happened about 11 p.m. CDT at a booking facility at the Escambia County Jail, and as many as 150 inmate and corrections officers were injured, said Kathleen Castro, the county’s public information manager. About 600 inmates were in the Pensacola building at the time, and the uninjured were taken to jails in neighboring counties, she said.

The Pensacola area was drenched by rains and severely flooded Wednesday as part of a large storm system making its way across the U.S., and Castro said the building was affected. But she said officials did not yet know whether the flooding and explosion were directly related.

Search-and-rescue teams combed the building several times and think everyone is accounted for, Castro said. Investigators were on the scene.

Victims were taken to four hospitals in Pensacola and nearby Gulf Breeze.

Sacred Heart Hospital treated 31 patients with mostly neck and back injuries, spokeswoman Vicki Brooks 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, spokesman Kendrick Doidge said.

Fifty patients were taken to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, with 12 treated and released by Thursday morning, spokeswoman Liz Branch said. At Gulf Breeze Hospital, 13 of the 31 patients from the explosion were treated and released.

The names of the two inmates killed in the explosion weren’t immediately released.

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Associated Press writer Freida Frisaro in Miami contributed to this report.