CORPUS CHRISTI TX Sept 18 2010 — Two people injured in an explosion at a beach motel Thursday have been released from the hospital while a third, the hotel’s manager Kim Royal, remains in a San Antonio burn unit.
Royal is in serious condition at Brooke Army Medical Center, friends and hospital representatives said.
Fire officials still are investigating the cause of the 11 a.m. explosion at Aquarium Inn & Suites on Corpus Christi Beach.
“An explosion with such significant concussion is consistent with a gas leak,” Corpus Christi Fire Marshal Andy Cardiel said. “There were no combustible materials or bomb debris.”
Rudy Noriega, a Texas State Aquarium security guard, said he heard the boom first. Then, he saw part of the building collapse and debris flying at him in slow motion.
“It was a terrible ordeal to go through,” said Noriega, who was patrolling a parking lot when the motel exploded. “I reached for my radio and I see blood all over the place, and it was from me. I radioed my supervisor and told him I was in the lot and said, ‘I’m hurt, I’m hurt.’ That’s all I could say.”
Noriega was treated and released Thursday at Christus Spohn Hospital Shoreline for an injured back, a ripped tendon in his wrist and numerous cuts. UPS driver Juan Luis, who also was injured in the explosion, was treated and released there as well, said Sherry Carr-Smith, spokeswoman for the hospital.
Noriega said he is thankful more people weren’t injured in what he described as a traumatic event that no one ever expects to go through.
“I went to bed last night and I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was still there in the lot,” Noriega said. “It sticks with you.”
On Friday, the charred remains of the motel were cordoned off with police tape as gas crews did tests. The Aquarium Inn & Suites’ insurance company also has hired a specialized investigations firm in Dallas to sift though the damage next week, Cardiel said.
A local adjuster assessed the damage at about $700,000.
But for Royal, the building was a priceless labor of love, said Cathie Mason, a friend of Royal and general manager of the nearby Pier 99 restaurant.
“She is a workaholic,” Mason said. “She has taken that piece of property from bad to good.”
Royal is committed to having good, responsible people in there, Mason said.
Mason said she suspects a gas leak because Royal often complained about the smell of gas coming from meters and underground.
Mason said she has had problems with the gas lines. She said that three weeks ago she saw water surrounding the gas meter and it was bubbling from escaping natural gas. She called the city to fix the connection that had slipped off.
Deborah Marroquin, director of gas for the city, said that a crew was at Pier 99 on Aug. 18 for a small repair that was completed the same day. She said the city shows no records of phone calls or service work related to Aquarium Inn & Suites.
“We feel very comfortable that our pipes are in good condition and that our pipes are not leaking,” Marroquin said. “After the inspections all around the building (Friday), there were no leaks found.”