By Eric M. Johnson
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Two hotel guests are missing after a gas explosion partially leveled a suburban Washington state motel and severely wounded a gas company employee, police said on Wednesday.
The Motel 6 in Bremerton, on the Kitsap Peninsula about an hour's ferry ride across the Puget Sound from Seattle, had been evacuated due to a gas leak about 30 minutes before the blast on Tuesday evening, police said.
Police were searching for two hotel guests, and it was not known if they were in the wreckage or had ventured out before the explosion, said Barbara Forbes, assistant to Bremerton Police Chief Steven Strachan.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cascade Gas employee critically injured tonight," Bremerton Police wrote on Twitter.
The force of the explosion blew back firefighters 20 feet, according to Bremerton police.
A gas company employee on scene trying to fix the leak was badly burned and transported to a local hospital, police said. There were no other immediate reports of injuries.
Firefighters were combing through the wreckage searching for any possible victims, police said on Twitter. Media photographs showed an excavator digging at the site.
Images and video taken by Seattle local media showed a fire behind the motel, with a section of the building demolished.
Motel manager Tonya Hinds told the Kitsap Sun newspaper that a passerby had noticed the leaking gas line. Hinds said she then moved quickly to evacuate the hotel, which had 65 guests in 42 rooms as well as staff.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and Victoria Cavaliere in Los Angeles; Editing by Susan Heavey)