SAN DIEGO (AP) — A powerful explosion on Wednesday ripped through a hotel near SeaWorld San Diego from a room where authorities say a couple was believed to be extracting oil from hashish, sending guests fleeing for safety.
A 22-year-old man in the room suffered life-threatening injuries. Also hurt were a woman in the room and a young man staying next door, authorities said.
Julie Jordan of San Diego was sleeping with a friend's baby in a nearby room at the three-story Heritage Inn Sea World Hotel when she felt the building shake, then heard a loud explosion. She ran outside and saw a shattered window and a badly injured man sitting at the bottom of some stairs moaning.
"People were screaming and running, and a man was burned from head to toe," said Jordan, 30. "His skin was falling off."
Investigators found several boxes containing canisters of butane inside the room where the blast occurred, police Lt. Joseph Ramos said.
The butane apparently was ignited by a cigarette, Fire-Rescue Department spokesman Maurice Luque said. The second-floor room looked like a "war zone," he said.
"It was a very intense and devastating explosion," Luque said.
Joseph Tydingco, 52, rushed out of his room after what felt like a major earthquake and saw black smoke billowing from rooms. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and, with another guest, removed mattresses as they heard people screaming outside.
Tydingco, a maintenance worker at SeaWorld, estimated that walls collapsed in six rooms. Police said at least four rooms were destroyed or badly damaged.
The blaze was mostly under control within minutes of the blast, which happened at about 11:15 a.m.
Tydingco said the hotel largely caters to vacationing families on tight budgets and local residents who lack enough cash to sign a rental lease.
The U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration is leading an investigation into the explosion.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. For an earlier version, read below.
SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A suspected drug lab explosion blew out walls and windows at a Midway-area hotel and set part of it ablaze Wednesday, leaving a young man gravely burned and two other people less severely injured, authorities reported.
The powerful blast in a second-floor guest room in the 3300 block of Channel Way, just south of Interstate 8, was reported at about 11:15 a.m., according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
Medics took a 21-year-old man and a woman in her 20s to UCSD Medical Center with potentially life-threatening burns and somewhat less severe injuries, respectively, SDFRD spokesman Maurice Luque said. The pair had been in the room where the explosion occurred, and a witness reported seeing the male occupant run outside screaming, engulfed in flames.
A 20-year-old man who was in an adjacent guest room was treated at the scene for moderately serious trauma, caused primarily by flying structural debris. The blast blew out several windows and three walls, Luque said.
Firefighters evacuated everyone from three-story hotel while extinguishing the blaze, which spread through walls into the third story and attic of the structure. It took the crews about 35 minutes to fully subdue the flames.
Personnel with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration were called in to look into preliminary evidence suggesting that the explosion resulted from an illicit methamphetamine "cooking" operation, DEA spokeswoman Amy Roderick said.
A hazardous-materials crew determined that no dangerous fumes or other toxic substances were present at the site following the blast and resulting fire, according to Luque.