An explosion rocked a hotel under construction on Monday, ripping off part of the building’s facade, sending debris flying and injuring 14 workers, five critically, authorities said.
Some of the workers were burned and others were injured by debris, fire department spokesman Maurice Luque said. The building did not burn after the explosion, which Luque said appeared to be accidental.
Matt McBride, general manager of the Tin Fish bar about 140m away, said he was setting up the outdoor patio bar when the blast occurred. He said he and other workers froze as they saw smoke come out of the building but no flames.
“It looked like a bomb,” McBride said. “It shook the whole building like a bomb. The reverb was what scared us. Everybody was saying bomb, bomb, bomb, terrorist, terrorist, terrorist.”
San Diego Deputy Fire-Rescue chief Perry Peake said the explosion occurred in an area of the building containing gas, electric and other utilities and that it appeared to have been caused by a mechanical failure or gas.
“We want to rule out all possibilities before making an official report, but we’re pretty confident that’s how it’s going to come out,” he said.
The Hilton Hotel near the San Diego Convention Center showed serious damage and debris littered a driveway beneath one corner of the structure. Facade material dangled from the structure, drapes dangled out windows and a large equipment room with tanks and pipes was left exposed.
The blast damaged floors four through seven, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said.
Firefighters searched the building to determine if there were any other victims.