US explosion at Sandman Hotel in Texas leaves 21 injured

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An explosion at a historic Texas hotel in Fort Worth on Monday blew out windows, littered downtown streets with large piles of debris from the building and injured 21 people, including one person who is in critical condition, authorities said.

Rescue crews found several people trapped in the basement of the 20-story hotel that is in the heart of downtown Fort Worth, said Craig Trojacek, a spokesman for the Fort Worth Fire Department.

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Investigators believe the blast was caused by natural gas, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesperson Sara Abel said. Four people were in serious condition and the others taken to hospitals had minor injuries, authorities said at a news conference.

The Sandman Signature hotel is in a busy area of downtown about one block from the Fort Worth Convention Center. Footage from news helicopters showed firefighters picking their way through the piles of drywall, shattered glass and mangled metal that coated the street outside the hotel. Authorities urged people to avoid the area.

“There is a smell of gas in the area and there are windows and things that were blown outside of the structure,” Trojacek said.

Trojacek said a restaurant in the building had been under construction but said it was not definitive that is where the blast occurred.

Video posted to social media showed a man sitting on a street corner across from the explosion site and holding a woman at his chest. The man appeared to have blood on his forehead, and a medical technician knelt in front of him to tend to his wounds.

A grey haze covered normally busy streets of downtown Fort Worth as firefighters walked through layers of debris. Remnants of the building lay scattered across the street and over parked vehicles, and gaping holes could be seen on the ground.

Texas state Rep. Nicole Collier, whose district office is about eight blocks from the hotel, said she didn’t hear the explosion but heard the sirens of responding emergency vehicles and helicopters overhead. Collier said she tried walking toward the site but emergency responders had already closed several blocks and were warning people to stay away.

According to the hotel website, the Sandman Signature Fort Worth Downtown Hotel has 245 rooms and was built in 1920 as the “Waggoner Building,” named after cattle rancher and oilman William Thomas Waggoner. The building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.

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