An explosion that was apparently caused by a gas leak rocked a motel Tuesday, and a maintenance worker was feared trapped in the rubble, authorities said. The blast rattled the 73-room motel shortly before 9 a.m., investigators said, collapsing the roof over a corner of rooms and dumping debris on cars parked below.
Six to eight rooms were destroyed, with the damage centered on a laundry-maintenance room, said Bremen Fire Chief Clark Farr.
Most of the motel's occupants had checked out, and only three or four people were inside at the time, said Police Capt. Richard Harrison. All the motel's guests were accounted for, but a 44-year-old maintenance worker was missing and feared trapped in the collapsed corner of the building.
After three hours of searching, no sign of the worker had been found, Farr said. The search was hindered initially by lingering hot spots, which were eventually extinguished. Search dogs were aiding the effort.
A fire inspection late last year found no violations at the motel, Farr said.
Maria Eskew, 39, said she had been trying to catch up on some sleep in a first-floor room when she heard the blast.
"I was scared to death," she said. "I knew something was wrong because the lights went out and the power went off. I went to the window and all I saw was debris and smoke. ... It felt like it was on my floor. It was right above me."
The explosion could be heard at least two miles up the road at a Holiday Inn Express, said its front desk clerk Lacey Bryant.
Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commission John Oxendine said the explosion's cause was under investigation.
The motel's signs advertised it as a Quality Inn & Suites, but its affiliation with the national franchise chain ended a year ago, said Robin Ferrier, a spokeswoman with Choice Hotels International, which owns the Quality Inn name. The motel's manager was not immediately available for comment.
The motel is near Interstate 20 and about 10 miles east of the Alabama border.
Written by Associated Press
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