A Bremerton man accused of breaking a gas line outside a motel in August, causing a massive explosion, could face criminal prosecution.
A Bremerton man could face criminal prosecution in connection with the massive explosion in August that destroyed a motel and injured several people.
After a nearly five-month investigation, Bremerton police are recommending a third-degree-assault charge be filed against a man they say broke a gas meter and caused the natural-gas explosion at the Motel 6.
The Seattle Times is not naming the man because he has not been charged.
Ione George, chief general counsel at the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office, said Wednesday her office had just received the investigation from Bremerton police and had not made a charging decision.
“It hasn’t even been logged into our system,” George said. “It will get put into our system and assigned to a deputy for review.”
Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan said the length of the investigation reflected the complexity of analyzing the cause of the blast.
“We had to do metallurgy and look into other technical aspects,” Strachan said.
Authorities were called to the Motel 6, at 3400 11th St., just before 8 p.m. on Aug. 18 for a report of a natural-gas leak. A 911 caller reported that someone in an old, white GMC pickup had “busted” the gas line before taking off, according to a certificate of probable cause.
Among those who responded was Larry Jennings, a Cascade Natural Gas employee who was working to cut off the gas when the blast occurred.
Police Officer Jordan Ejde said he was about 50 feet away from the source of the leak when he saw the east end of the motel explode into flames. A security camera at the motel captured the devastating blast.
Ejde said he couldn’t “remember if I was pushed or dived to the ground,” according to the certificate of probable cause that lays out the police case.
Jennings was critically injured by the blast and has still not recovered, according to police. A company spokesman confirmed Jennings has not returned to work, but declined further comment.
One firefighter suffered a concussion and another was struck in the chest with debris, while a police officer suffered temporary hearing loss.
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Motel manager Tonya Hinds managed to usher guests out of their rooms just minutes before the explosion, which destroyed 16 rooms and displaced 65 guests.
Throughout their investigation, police said they received reports about a white SUV being spotted near the motel around the time of the explosion. Several people said they saw a person breaking the gas line, police said in the probable-cause paperwork.
Police were able to eventually track down the 32-year-old suspect at the Kitsap County Jail, where he was being held on an unrelated warrant.
The man told police he had rented a room at the motel for his 17-year-old daughter. He said the girl needed to get away from her mother, who was apparently mad after the girl announced she was pregnant, the paperwork said.
The man explained that his wife was furious that the girl had left their home, and he had told his daughter to stay in the room until her mother calmed down.
When the mother went to confront the girl, the man, who is between 230 and 245 pounds, told police he stood on what he thought was a “sturdy” gray box to help the girl get out of the motel room through a window, the paperwork said.
Police said they believe the man knew the gas line had been broken but didn’t alert anyone.