A hotel explosion Tuesday at a Nashville resort forced more than 5,000 guests, including hundreds of sheriffs gathered for a convention, to evacuate.
Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles said convention-goers were at a cocktail reception about 1½ floors above the explosion at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center when the floor lifted up a few inches at about 8:15 p.m.
“It felt as though you were lifted out of your chair three or four inches,” Balles said. “But you didn’t actually hear the explosion.”
Capt. Ken Walburn of the Nashville Fire Department told WSMV-TV in Nashville it appeared that a gas leak was ignited inside a mechanical room on the first floor, causing significant damage to an escalator, walls and ceiling. He said the blast was so strong it damaged ceiling tiles on the third floor of the convention center. The hotel is next to the well-known Grand Ole Opry.
“It was amazing that no one was hurt,” Walburn said.
He said he and a few other sheriffs made their way down the fire stairwell and blocked off the area where the explosion occurred until fire crews arrived.
He said it took about five minutes for the alarm to go off, and that there did not seem to be an evacuation plan in place.
Several people slept on the grass as they were not allowed back into the hotel until 3:30 Wednesday morning.
“Lucky for me, I was in the overflow hotel,” he said.
When he arrived Saturday, it had not seemed so lucky when he found he would be about a 10-minute walk from the area where he would be attending seminars. But Tuesday night, it meant he — and several New Jersey sheriff’s officers he invited to bunk with him — had a place to sleep.
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