Large gas explosion rocks Bremerton motel; 1 reported injury

BREMERTON, Wash. -- Police are investigating a Tuesday night explosion that injured one person and severely damaged a Bremerton motel.

Reports of a gas leak at a Motel 6 in the 3400 block of 11th Street started coming in just before 8 p.m. Police say everyone at the hotel, including gas crews and hotel workers, were being evacuated at about 8:30 p.m. when the building exploded.

Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan said one employee of the Cascade Gas Company was critically injured in the blast. The worker was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center with second- and third-degree burns.

Several firefighters were on scene investigating the gas leak when the building exploded. Strachan said the firefighters "were blown back 20 feet," though none were seriously injured.

He said there are so far no reports of people being trapped in the rubble.

Bremerton resident Alec Vines lives several blocks away from the motel. He was watching TV with his wife Tuesday night when he heard a loud explosion.

"It was incredibly loud, almost like it was thunder," he said. "The entire house shook."

Hotel manager Tonya Hinds said in a telephone interview that a passerby had come into her office to say a gas line was leaking at the back of the building. Hinds - a former volunteer firefighter - said she went outside and saw that the leaking line was a big one "with a lot of gas."

"I pulled the alarm and started corralling people away from the building," Hinds said. "I wanted to make sure all my guests were out."

Hinds said the motel had about 65 guests in 42 occupied rooms, and the blast destroyed about one-quarter of the building. She said that one guest reported having seen someone jump out a window of the three-story establishment and land on or near the gas line just before the leak.

Shaken motel guests watched the building burn from across the street. One guest from Arizona said he was sleeping when he heard an alarm and people banging on his door to get out. Warren Henry made it to a nearby parking lot just before the building exploded.

"I was watching it and it blew up," Henry said. "My room, that end of the building, is gone. It just blew up."

The motel continued to burn for hours before firefighters finally put it out.

Emergency crews from throughout Kitsap County are responding to the explosion and all nearby streets have been closed to traffic.

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