Family members say a Florida Panhandle jail guard is paralyzed from the waist down following an explosion at the facility.
The Escambia County Jail was rocked by an explosion Wednesday night after a major rainstorm caused the basement to flood. Two inmates died and nearly 200 inmates and prison guards were injured. The exact cause of the explosion remains under investigation.
The Pensacola News Journal reported on Monday that Christopher Hankinson worked in the property room, directly above the blast. He was thrown through a hole in the floor, into the flooded basement. The impact crushed a vertebra, multiple ribs and a shoulder blade.
Hankinson’s wife, Shannon, who also worked at the jail, said her husband is recovering from surgery at a Birmingham, Alabama, hospital.
Hankinson’s niece, Carmen Stone, set up a fundraising site in the days after her uncle’s injury. She told the newspaper that although workman’s compensation will cover the initial medical expenses, the family will end up paying for travel expenses, lodging, aftercare and other costs.
Shannon Hankinson also thanked fellow corrections officer Kelley Bradford who held Hankinson’s head above water for nearly an hour while they waited for help to arrive.
Bradford’s daughter said Sunday that her mother was recovering from numerous bruises.
Kelley Gonzalez said her mother went through a harrowing ordeal.
“She was sitting at her desk one minute,” Gonzalez said, “and the next, she’s coming up out of the water in the basement. It was completely dark except for one fluorescent light that was kind of hanging from the ceiling.”
She said her mother’s legs were black and blue but that she is recovering.
“It looks like a gang of folks went at her with a baseball bat on her legs,” Gonzalez said. “She’s bruised up real bad, but she’s alive.”