The blast in a second-floor guest room at the Heritage Inn on Channel Way, just south of Interstate 8, was reported shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman Maurice Luque said.
“Glass flew everywhere, windows came out and mattresses came out. It was one big KABOOM and the whole building shook,” a hotel guest said.
Two people inside a room were trying to extract hashish oil from marijuana, using highly flammable butane, San Diego sheriff’s investigators said. Someone lit a cigarette and an explosion blew out walls and windows.
“I saw the guy screaming, crawling out,” said one hotel guest. “I put towels on him, he was burnt up, his eyelashes were burned out, his whole head and feet and hands were raw flesh and his hair was burned.”
Medics took the two people who had been in the room, a man and woman in their early 20s, to UCSD Medical Center for treatment of life-threatening burns and less severe injuries, respectively.
A 20-year-old man who was in an adjacent guest room at the time of the explosion — which blew out several windows and three walls — was taken to the same Hillcrest hospital with moderately serious trauma, in large part caused by flying structural debris, Luque said.
The force of the explosion shattered glass in every direction, sending debris flying, even blowing out the interior wall of the unit next door.
Residents were evacuated while firefighters extinguished the flames within 30 minutes. A hazardous-materials crew determined that no dangerous fumes or other toxic substances were present at the site following the blast and fire, according to Luque.
The man accused of causing the blast and his female companion, whose names were not immediately available, could face criminal charges over the destructive accident, police said.