In the days after the county’s Central Booking and Detention exploded, county officials were telling commissioners, away from the public, that the gas explosion would have occurred whether the county or Sheriff David Morgan controlled the facility.
Two years ago, the first floor of the CBD flooded when it was under the supervision of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. The Independent News asked the sheriff how did he handled the power outages when the basement began to flood that Saturday in June 2012. Morgan said that his staff reported a gas smell and they asked Pensacola Energy Services to come out shutoff the natural gas, which they did as early as possible on Sunday morning. He verified this with Pensacola Energy Services and its attorney on Tuesday.
In June 2012, the flood water reached the basement ceiling during the storm that brought about 13 inches of rain to Escambia County. The flood knocked out power and water for drinking and flushing toilets. It took out phone and computer systems. Paper jail records also were destroyed. Lights and power at the CBD were restored with a backup system Saturday night.
The county chose to rebuild the basement with its kitchen and laundry facilities rather relocate those functions to higher ground. On October 1, 2013, the county took control of the Main Jail and the CBD. Twenty-two days ago, the first floor, which is also referred to as the basement, flooded again. This time the gas was not cut off and the gas caused an explosion 28 hours after the rains began. The blast killed two prisoners, paralyzed a guard and injured 200 inmates and guards.
Escambia County officials have yet to admit that the basement flooded. At the county’s only press conference on the disaster on May 1, Corrections Director Gordon Pike said that the basement only had 26 inches of water in it. Public Information Officer Bill Pearson said that they had no written reports of a gas leak.