PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) -- A Florida jail employee says the gas smell was overwhelming in the hours before a deadly explosion that killed two inmates and injured nearly 200 other people in April.
Shannon Hankinson told the Pensacola News Journal on Monday that she and other workers at the Escambia County Jail complained about the smell when they clocked in at 7 p.m. on April 30. A supervisor told them the issue had already been investigated and that all was well, she said. She said that some inmates were sick and vomiting from smelling fumes before the blast, and that she had a headache.
Hankinson's husband, Chris Hankinson, also worked at the jail and was paralyzed in the explosion that happened around 11 p.m. The jail basement was flooded with 2 feet of water when the building exploded.
Chris Hankinson, who is still undergoing treatment at an Alabama hospital, said doctors have told him it is unlikely he will walk again.
The explosion flung Chris Hankinson into the flooded basement. He likened it to being tumbled by big waves after falling from a surf board.
"I had all this debris. All this cement was falling on top of me ... I honestly thought I wasn't going to make it. I thought I was going to be buried alive just like in 9/11. I thought I was dead," he told the newspaper.
Hankinson credits a fellow jail employee with saving his life by holding his head above water for nearly an hour before emergency workers reached him.
An investigation into the blast by the State Fire Marshall's Office and the Division of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is ongoing.