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UPDATE: Pensacola Jail Had History of Problems

UPDATE: Pensacola Jail Had History of Problems

By: Associated Press Email | WCTV.TV

Law enforcement officers stand in front of the Escambia County Jail after an explosion caused the evacuation of the facility, Thursday, May 1, 2014, in Pensacola, Fla. Two inmates were killed and mote than 100 others were injured in the explosion according to an Escambia County spokeswoman. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Law enforcement officers stand in front of the Escambia County Jail after an explosion caused the evacuation of the facility, Thursday, May 1, 2014, in Pensacola, Fla. Two inmates were killed and mote than 100 others were injured in the explosion according to an Escambia County spokeswoman. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

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UPDATE From Associated Press:
The Florida jail crippled in an apparent gas explosion had a history of problems that prompted a five-year federal investigation.

Among the problems – very few guards, widespread violence, and even segregation of inmates.

A 2013 U.S. Justice Department report outlined conditions at the Escambia County Jail. The hail was rocked by an explosion Wednesday. Two inmates died and nearly 200 others – including prison guards – were injured.

Investigators are now trying to figure out whether the blast was an accident or something that could have been prevented.


UPDATE From Associated Press:
Officials say the Pensacola jail already had two feet of water in the basement from the record-setting rains when an apparent gas explosion leveled the inside of the building, killing two inmates and injuring more than 180 other people.
In the rubble and chaos, inmates were trapped and had to be rescued. Others were treated for their injuries in the parking lot. In all, 600 inmates rushed out of the jail to hospitals or nearby jails.
Inmate Monique Barnes says she was she was knocked off her fourth-floor bunk. “The explosion shook us so hard it was like we were in an earthquake,” Barnes told The Associated Press. She said she and other inmates complained of smelling gas before the blast, and some reported headaches.
County spokesman Bill Pearson said they didn’t receive any 911 calls about gas nor have any reports of an odor.

Associated Press News Release
May 1, 2014 – 9:45am

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — An apparent gas explosion rocked a jail in the Florida Panhandle late Wednesday, killing two inmates, injuring more than 100 people, and causing the building to partially collapse, according to a county spokeswoman.

At the blast site Thursday morning, pieces of glass and brick were strewn about on the ground. The front of the building appeared bowed out, with cracks throughout. Authorities blocked off roads leading to the jail.

“I ain’t never heard anything like it,” said Rodney Cozine, standing outside his neighboring home, looking at a large gash in the building and piles of debris.

The explosion happened about 11 p.m. CDT at a booking facility at the Escambia County Jail, and as many as 150 inmate and corrections officers were injured, said Kathleen Castro, the county’s public information manager.

A couple of blocks from the jail, Ellis Robinson and his family awoke to a loud noise sometime after midnight, their home rattling. “It shook the whole house,” he said. “I got up, the dog started barking, people were running up there.” He spent the night observing the chaos and watching as inmates were loaded into buses.

About 600 inmates – 200 men and 400 women – were in the building at the time, Castro said. Those with injuries were taken to hospitals and the uninjured to jails in neighboring counties, officials said. Castro said authorities did not yet know the extent of injuries, but local hospitals said some with minor issues had already been released.

One inmate was pregnant, and she was OK after the blast, Castro said.

The Pensacola area was drenched by rains and severely flooded Wednesday as part of a large storm system making its way across the U.S., and Castro said the building was affected. But she said officials did not yet know whether the flooding and explosion were directly related. The generator was running at the time of the blast, but Castro said officials don’t believe that was related.

Search-and-rescue teams combed the building several times and think everyone is accounted for, Castro said. Investigators were on the scene. Castro said the fire marshal would ultimately determine the cause.

The names of the two inmates killed in the explosion weren’t immediately released.

Defense attorney Gene Mitchell stood outside police tape at the jail Thursday morning, reviewing dozens of text messages from clients’ relatives wondering what happened to their loved ones.

“I have over 20 clients in there,” he said. “I’ve had dozens of calls. Every other call is a family member wanting to know what has happened to a loved one.”

He said he hasn’t been able to get much information about the inmates. Castro said officials were having trouble notifying families because it isn’t safe to enter the jail to access computers and paper records.

—-

John Mone and John Raoux of The Associated Press contributed to this report in Pensacola. Associated Press writer Freida Frisaro in Miami also contributed.


Associated Press News Release
May 1, 2014 – 6:30am

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — A county spokeswoman says two people were killed in a gas explosion at the jail in Pensacola, Florida, and more than 100 others were injured.


Associated Press News Release
May 1, 2014 – 6am

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — A county spokeswoman says a gas explosion at a jail in Pensacola, Florida, has injured 100 to 150 inmates and corrections officers.

Kathleen Castro says the explosion happened around 11 p.m. CDT Wednesday in Escambia County jail’s booking facility and caused the building to partially collapse. She says about 600 inmates were in the building at the time.

Castro didn’t know if flooding in the area was a factor but says the jail did get extensive flooding during heavy rains that drenched the region Tuesday and Wednesday.

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