On January 8, 2024, the downtown area of Fort Worth, Texas, was rocked by a devastating explosion at the historic Sandman Signature Hotel. The incident, believed to be caused by a gas leak, resulted in 21 injuries, with one person reported in critical condition. The explosion occurred in the middle of the afternoon, a time when the bustling city streets were typically filled with activity.
The Sandman Signature Hotel, a structure with a storied past, stands in a busy area of downtown, just a block away from the Fort Worth Convention Center. Built in 1920 and originally known as the “Waggoner Building,” named after the cattle rancher and oilman William Thomas Waggoner, the building has been a fixture on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979. At the time of the explosion, more than two dozen rooms in the 20-story hotel were occupied.
The force of the blast was such that it blew out windows, scattered debris across streets, and flung doors and sections of walls onto the road. This caused significant disruption and damage, with large sections of building debris and office furniture littering the downtown streets. Witnesses nearby reported seeing a large flash and hearing a sound akin to thunder, followed by a wall of dust and debris that swept through the city streets.
The explosion’s impact was felt not just physically but also in the psyche of the community. Residents and workers described scenes of chaos and confusion. One witness, Rebecca Martinez, recounted hearing a loud crack and seeing a man and a woman, injured and in shock, leaning against a fire hydrant. Paula Snider, a UPS delivery driver, described hearing the explosion and seeing a puff of black smoke, followed by debris landing near her vehicle.
First responders, including the Fort Worth Fire Department, were quickly on the scene. Spokesman Craig Trojacek reported that several people were rescued from the hotel’s basement, where they had been trapped. Ambulances and emergency medical services, provided by MedStar, were actively involved in treating and transporting the injured. Fifteen people were taken to hospitals, with six in semi-critical conditions.
In the aftermath, a grey haze covered the normally vibrant downtown streets as firefighters navigated the debris. The explosion left gaping holes in the building, and scattered remnants across the street and parked vehicles. Investigators, including those from federal agencies, were working to determine the cause of the blast, which remained unclear. Technicians from Atmos Energy, a Dallas-based natural gas distributor, along with an inspector from the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator, were on the scene to assist with the investigation.
Northland Properties Co., the Canadian company that owns the hotel, issued a statement emphasizing their commitment to the safety and well-being of their team members and guests. They expressed their intent to work closely with officials to ascertain the cause of the explosion and assess the extent of the damage.
This incident has not only highlighted the potential hazards associated with gas leaks and construction sites but also underscored the importance of stringent safety measures and emergency preparedness in urban areas. As investigations continue, the focus remains on supporting the injured and unraveling the sequence of events that led to this tragic occurrence