UPDATE: The bodies of the two people killed in the explosion last night at the Escambia County jail have been removed from the site. The two men were both inmates, they have been identified as 45-year-old David Weinstein and 54-year-old Robert Simmons.
Emotions were running high outside the Escambia County Jail Thursday morning as family members tried to find out if loved ones were okay.
During a news conference, Sheriff David Morgan was interrupted by a woman whose son is an inmate.
The woman said, “My son has not been accounted for. How do you think family members are feeling that their kids have not been accounted for, and, I’ve seen more than two body bags come out of there?”
Sheriff Morgan said, “Ma’am, I will direct your concerns to the…”
The woman then said, “Direct our concerns? You’re the sheriff. You didn’t even come up here last night when we were up here. People standing in the rain, begging for information. You did not show your face, but you’ll show your face during elections.”
The sheriff said, “Ma’am, the jail does not work for me.”
Sheriff Morgan referred the woman to the county commission, which took over control of the jail last year after a 5-year federal investigation.
Escambia County officials said two inmates were killed, 45-year-old David Weinstein and 54-year-old Robert Simmons,184 total inmates were injured, and 3 corrections officers were injured in the gas explosion that rocked the Central Booking Facility of the Escambia County Jail Wednesday night, April 30, around 11 p.m.
County officials said some 600 plus people were inside jail at time of explosion.
But Thursday night, 24 hours after the explosion, more families of those inmates said they have no idea how their loved ones are doing, or where they are.
“We can’t find him, nobody can tell us anything,” said Sharon Harrison, who said she has been looking for her son, a prisoner at the Escambia County Jail, all day, “We have been to every hospital. We have called number after number after number…and we called the jails, where they told us to call, and there’s no sign of him.”
Harrison said she traveled some two hours from Alabama to find out the condition of her son. She said she’s not leaving Pensacola until she gets an answer.
“After this many hours, somebody should know something,” she said, “How can it take this long?”
Other parents of inmates feel the same.
“We’ve been getting the runaround for the past 24 hours and I’m just tired of it,” said Scott Curry, who’s son was a prisoner at the jail, “we don’t know what’s going on with our son, or his whereabouts, so we’re waiting to find out his fate. That’s a hard pill to swallow.”
Family members said they feel as though county officials are not being respectful or helpful in helping families connect with their loved ones.
“I think this is very inconsiderate of them, to just leave us like we’re not anything,” said Harrison, “What if it was their child? What would they do?”
County officials admitted to FOX10 they have not done the best job they could do.
“I understand their frustrations, it was a very long, slow process to get accurate information, that information on the inmates has been posted to our website, and it took much longer than we would have liked, quite frankly, and that’s something we’ll be addressing,” said Bill Pearson, Escambia County Spokesperson.
Pearson said the severe weather combined with the extreme nature of the explosion have taken a toll on the county’s performance.
“We had here a unique situation. We had a massive flood event where our citizens information center was activated and staffed as best it could be. And then, we had a jail that exploded, and that was another nightmare to deal with,” Pearson explained.
So where are the inmates as of Thursday evening, May 1?
Pearson said all 220 female inmates were taken to Santa Rosa County. As for the male inmates, they are at three different areas across Escambia County, including one site just down the street from where the explosion happened.
“We’ve got a couple facilities two blocks over within our main jail, we have a road camp prison that we have about 80 people at, and then we have a work release facility,” explained Pearson, “Now those inmates at the work release facility aren’t going to be released to go to work, they’re just at a place where we can keep an eye on them and take care of them safely.”