Damage being assessed after explosion at Opryland Hotel

Damage being assessed after explosion at Opryland Hotel

POSTED: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 11:30am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 11:34am

Repairs are underway at the Gaylord Hotel after an explosion Tuesday night caused by a crack in the heating system forced thousands of guests to evacuate, including 500 sheriffs who were attending a conference.

More than 5,000 people were evacuated after a gas leak caused a blast in the mechanical room of the hotel around 8:15 p.m.

According to Metro police spokesman Don Aaron, natural gas got into a steam line in the mechanical room. No foul play is suspected, said investigators.

One person suffered a hurt ankle during the evacuation, but no other injuries were reported.

A spokesperson for Gaylord said the explosion was located near the Ryman exhibit hall in the convention center.

"It was a loud boom. The whole building shook, and as a matter of fact, it felt like an earthquake," said witness Tom Reyes, of California. "I look out the window, and there's pipes swayed horizontally across the atrium. They were swaying back and forth."

Reyes said he and other hotel guests did not smell natural gas at the time of the explosion. He said they began smelling the gas about an hour after the blast as they were waiting in the parking lot.

Approximately 500 of the country's sheriffs are attending the 2012 National Sheriffs Association conference through Wednesday at the convention center. Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall was among the guests attending a reception at the time of the blast.

"The concussion coming from the explosion was something that I've never felt before. It was a pretty alarming thing to happen in the location where we were in, and then debris starts falling, the ceiling tiles, where we were," Hall said. "Clearly, from the debris that was falling, from that you didn't know where or what caused it. And you could imagine the alarm when you've got federal government officials from D.C. here."

Hotel guests were bused to other locations while structural engineers examined the damage. Other guests spent the night at the Grand Ole Opry and Convention Center and some camped out in their lawn chairs and cars.

During the evacuation, hotel employees provided guests with sandwiches, food and water.

Guests were finally allowed to return to the hotel at about 3:15 a.m. Wednesday. According to a hotel spokesperson, all fees will be waived for the night.

Gaylord CEO Colin V. Reed released the following statement:

"First and foremost, what is important is that no one was hurt as a result of this incident. I want to commend the efforts of the Nashville Fire Department, Nashville Police Department, and our (employees) for their swift response that ensured that the issue was assessed as quickly as possible and that all guests were safely evacuated. At this stage we can now focus on returning to business as usual and repairing the impacted areas of the properly with minimal disruption to our guests."

Initial estimates of the damages are less than $750,000. Repairs are being assessed and plans for repairs are underway.

A news release from Gaylord Wednesday morning said that initial assessments "suggest the impact will not be material and will have little to no effect on upcoming meetings and events." The hotel and restaurants resumed normal operations at 7 a.m.

The Delta area, where the incident occurred, is blocked off to all traffic while clean up and repairs are conducted, said Gaylord public relations director Jenny Barker.


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