A section of a Motel 6 in Bremerton exploded into flames Tuesday night, critically injuring a gas-company employee.
A man and a woman remain missing, said Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan.
Strachan said a Cascade Natural Gas employee was flown to Harborview Medical Center with second- and third-degree burns as well as “lacerations to the head.” He is critically injured and in the intensive care unit, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said Wednesday morning.
Police were on-site Wednesday morning and the investigation into the blast will continue.
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“Our detectives have been going with firefighters as they check off rooms trying to locate whether that person is in a particular room or whether we could connect the person otherwise,” Strachan said.
Police have also spent the night chasing down rumors about a cause for the explosion – including allegations that someone drove a car into the gas meter, that someone struck the meter with a hammer and that the explosion was somehow related to a domestic-violence incident.
“We have no conclusive evidence of foul play right now,” Strachan said.
Just before 8 p.m. Tuesday, a call went out to the company of a possible gas leak at the motel, Bremerton police tweeted. The building, at 3400 11th St., was evacuated, fire officials said. Around 8:30 p.m. a section of the motel exploded into flames, shooting plumes of thick, black smoke into the sky.
Manager Tonya Hinds said 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.”
“I’m just glad I acted on instinct and everything turned out the way it did,” Hinds said.
Strachan called Hinds a hero. He said that firefighters and police also helped with the evacuations.
“I was talking to one of the officers last night who less than 50 feet from the explosion. He said ‘I didn’t even hear any sound’.”
Strachan said the officer told him the size of the explosion was “surreal.”
“Right now we’re down to one critical injury, which is really bad, and one person missing, but you have to contemplate how much worse it could have been,” Strachan said.
None of the motel patrons was reported injured, but some firefighters who had responded to the initial call were blown back about 20 feet from the blast, police tweeted.
Hinds asked for prayers for the critically-injured gas company employee. “He was here for us.”
The motel, which reopened last fall after an extensive remodel, had about 65 guests in 42 occupied rooms, and the blast destroyed about one-quarter of the building, Hinds said. 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.
Several people said their life’s possessions were in the motel at the time. Numerous people saw the explosion and fire after being removed from the building.
The Red Cross was responding to find the guests alternative housing, Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan said.
Seattle Times staff writer Jessica Lee and The Associated Press contributed to this report.