• Associated Press

Explosion at Historic Texas Hotel Injures 21 and Scatters Debris in Downtown Fort Worth

AP Photo/Julio Cortez
Workers survey damage near the Sandman Signature hotel following an explosion, Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Fort Worth, Texas.

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — An explosion at a historic Texas hotel in Fort Worth on Monday blew out windows, littered downtown streets with large sections of debris from the building and injured 21 people, including one who was in critical condition, authorities said.

The blast flung doors and entire sections of wall onto the road in front of the 20-story hotel, where rescue crews found several people trapped in the basement, said Craig Trojacek, a spokesman for the Fort Worth Fire Department.

More than two dozen rooms were occupied at the Sandman Signature Hotel when the blast took place, Trojacek said. Authorities said they believe a gas leak caused the explosion and said the hotel had been undergoing construction.

Rebecca Martinez was among those in nearby buildings who recalled hearing a loud crack that sounded like thunder Monday afternoon, and then seeing a wall of dust and debris sweep through the city streets. Stepping outside to see what happened, she came upon a man and a woman leaned up against a fire hydrant.

“The man was all bloody, his face was all bloody,” Martinez said. “Then I started smelling natural gas, real intense and I thought, ‘I might need to get away from here.'”

Moments later, she said, authorities evacuated her building and some of the surrounding neighborhood.

The blast left four people with serious injuries and the others taken to hospitals had minor wounds, officials 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.

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.

“There was debris. There was insulation. There was office furniture,” Charlie Collier, 31, told The Associated Press. “Everything that was in the first couple floors of the building was blown out all over the street.”

Trojacek said investigators were working with federal investigators to determine the cause of the blast. The scene had left rescue teams unable to immediately reach some parts of the building.

“We had reports of people trapped down in the basement, and because of the explosion that took place, some of those access areas were either covered up or it didn’t feel safe at that point to get people down into,” Trojacek said.

Technicians from Atmos Energy, a Dallas-based natural gas distributor, were examining the blast site Monday. A spokesperson for the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator, said an agency inspector was also on the scene and working with local authorities.

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.