First Judicial Circuit State Attorney Bill Eddins Nov. 20 announced a grand jury did not find sufficient evidence for criminal charges related to an April 2014 natural gas explosion at Escambia County Jail which killed two inmates.
According to the grand jury report, following a June 2012 flooding event, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan recommended basement facilities be relocated to a higher level. In Oct. 2013 Morgan relinquished custody of the jail to the board of county commissioners as a result of a budgetary dispute. Subsequently, the basement was rebuilt in the same location.
As a result of an April 29 torrential downpour, clothes dryers in the basement detached from natural gas connections, causing a leak. Staff and inmates complained about a natural gas odor, but Pensacola Energy, the jail’s natural gas provider, was not contacted. Around 11:15 the next night an unknown source ignited the deadly explosion, which also injured many.
The report recommended Morgan resume control of the jail, which jurors said should be reconstructed elsewhere. Additionally, the jury made additional recommendations, including the county provide full disclosure related to the decision not to relocate basement facilities.
Deputy Rich Aloy, spokesman for Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office, said that because of the disaster some Escambia County inmates, specifically 110 females, are still housed at the Santa Rosa County Jail.