SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A powerful explosion on Wednesday ripped through a hotel near SeaWorld San Diego from a room where authorities say a couple was believed to be extracting oil from hashish, sending guests fleeing for safety.
A 22-year-old man in the room suffered life-threatening injuries. Also hurt were a woman in the room and a young man staying next door, authorities said.
Julie Jordan of San Diego was sleeping with a friend's baby in a nearby room at the three-story Heritage Inn Sea World Hotel when she felt the building shake, then heard a loud explosion. She ran outside and saw a shattered window and a badly injured man sitting at the bottom of some stairs moaning.
"People were screaming and running, and a man was burned from head to toe," said Jordan, 30. "His skin was falling off."
Investigators found several boxes containing canisters of butane inside the room where the blast occurred, police Lt. Joseph Ramos said.
The butane apparently was ignited by a cigarette, Fire-Rescue Department spokesman Maurice Luque said. The second-floor room looked like a "war zone," he said.
"It was a very intense and devastating explosion," Luque said.
Joseph Tydingco, 52, rushed out of his room after what felt like a major earthquake and saw black smoke billowing from rooms. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and, with another guest, removed mattresses as they heard people screaming outside.
Tydingco, a maintenance worker at SeaWorld, estimated that walls collapsed in six rooms. Police said at least four rooms were destroyed or badly damaged.
The blaze was mostly under control within minutes of the blast, which happened at about 11:15 a.m.
Tydingco said the hotel largely caters to vacationing families on tight budgets and local residents who lack enough cash to sign a rental lease.
The U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration is leading an investigation into the explosion.