Inside the Chaos: Inmates Tell What Happened 
During the Jail Explosion

From this week’s edition of the Independent News

Eric Stevenson has been busy since the early hours of Wednesday, April 30. The criminal defense attorney has been trying to help his clients who were caught in the explosion at the Escambia County Central Booking and Detention Center (CBD).

While Escambia and Santa Rosa counties were rescuing families from the heavy rains and flooding from the previous night, the CBD was rocked by a blast, reportedly caused by a gas leak, around 11 p.m. on Wednesday. Two inmates died, one guard was left paralyzed and nearly 200 other inmates and guards were injured as floors and walls collapsed.

In a press conference the following afternoon, Director of Corrections Gordon Pike said that all 600 inmates had been accounted for. He said that the basement of the jail had only taken in 26 inches of water.

County Public Information Officer Bill Pearson dismissed the rumors that the inmates had complained about a natural gas leak hours and days before the explosion. “From everything that we’ve been told—we’ve actually gone through our 9-1-1 calls, we did not receive any calls about a gas leak before the explosion took place.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has taken over the investigation of the explosion. The agency will determine how the blast occurred and whether any criminal charges should be filed.

Several of Stevenson’s clients and their families look forward to the results of the ATF investigation. They have told the attorney a story of the event that differs from what county staff has been saying.

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