BREMERTON — An acrid smell of smoke filled the air near Motel 6 in Bremerton after an explosion partially destroyed the building around 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 18, 2015.
Twenty months later, that Motel 6 has been rebuilt and is about to officially open again on April 21.
“It’s been a long process, of course,” owner Ramesh Rabadia said. “We didn’t think it’d be this difficult, but it’s not easy.
“When it happened, we didn’t know what to do.”
Starting at 4 p.m. April 21, Motel 6 will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony and give community members the opportunity to view the renovated motel and check out the rooms, which feature new color schemes, new furniture, wood floors and more.
Tonya Hinds, a Motel 6 clerk who was the acting manager at the time of the explosion, said the renovation was “a tremendous undertaking.”
“But we’re done and we’re doing really well. We just hope to get back out there in the community and get going,” Hinds said. “It was a huge undertaking, but we finished up and it’s looking good.”
Hinds said Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, a county commissioner and representatives of the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce are expected to attend the reopening, as well as Miss Kitsap, Miss Poulsbo and others. Refreshments will be served.
“The community has been really good to us. When it was happening, people were so nice. It’s not like in big cities,” Rabadia said. “Here, it’s like family. It was good.”
He said the renovation process was a difficult one that had a lot of bumps in the road.
“It was a difficult time,” he said. “We tried to finish it in one year, but contractors are so busy and they didn’t have enough people, and the weather was not good, so we ended up losing one and a half years. It was not an easy process to rebuild.”
But with the renovations complete and the hotel set to reopen, Rabadia is in good spirits.
The explosion was triggered by a hotel guest who stepped on a natural gas pipe while escaping the building during a family dispute. The explosion critically injured a natural-gas company worker who was trying to stop the leak.
Rabadia lamented the injuries sustained by the worker, but was thankful the explosion didn’t have worse results.
“We think we lucked out because we pulled out everybody on time,” Rabadia said.
“Otherwise, there could have been a lot of casualties. The fire department was right there, and luckily nobody got injured too much except the poor guy with the gas company. He was right there. He survived … but he got injured really bad. We feel lucky (that more people weren’t hurt).”
Rabadia added, “Special thanks to the fire department and police department. The city really worked with us and responded on time when we needed. The community, thank you to the community.”
Michelle Beahm is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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The following is an excerpt from our first story about the Aug. 18, 2015 explosion, written by Chris Tucker and Peter O’Cain:
Motel 6 clerk Tonya Hinds was working at the front office Aug. 18 when someone told her there was a gas leak. She went to inspect the line, located on the southeast corner of the motel, and didn’t see the ruptured line, but she could hear the sound of the escaping gas and smelled a strong odor.
“We had 42 rooms occupied,” Hinds said of the motel’s occupancy. “There were probably 75-80 guests altogether in those rooms.” She knew that some of the motel guests were smokers.
She called the fire department, but by the time they arrived, Hinds had a bad feeling about the situation.
“I just saw it becoming a bad situation if we didn’t get control of everybody and get everybody out. It was just a gut instinct I think. It just kept telling me, ‘Just pull that alarm. Don’t even take time to knock on doors.’ I don’t remember if I was talking with 911 or who I was talking to … I said, ‘I’m going to evacuate my building right now. I don’t feel good about this.’”
She pulled the alarm.
“I ran out in the parking lot. The strobes went off – it’s very loud (the alarm). And I just told everybody ‘I want everybody out.’ People wanted to go back, I said, ‘No, I just want everybody out into the upper parking lot away from the building right now.’”
“[We are] just blessed by God that it just all went the way that it did. Everybody followed instructions and did what they were supposed to do.”
Hinds teared up a little as she spoke about the motel guests. She said she was happy everyone was OK.
“My guests were tremendous … I’m just happy to see their smiling faces and their children.”
“It’s a sad but good day.”
Hinds said that earlier in her life she was a volunteer firefighter and first responder. Then, she put out a van fire and saved some people involved in a wreck.
“This is my home. This is my community,” Hinds said.
About 10 minutes after the rooms were emptied, the east end of the motel exploded, Hinds said.
Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan said there were no reports of anyone trapped inside.
One employee from Cascade Natural Gas was critically injured with second- and third-degree burns and flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Hinds said the motel had 75-80 guests in 42 occupied rooms, and the blast destroyed about one-quarter of the building.
Hinds said one guest may have seen someone jumping out of a window of the three-story motel just before the leak.
Firefighters from Bremerton, South Kitsap, Central Kitsap and Navy Fire responded to the scene.