Explosion damages Hiway House Motel in Albuquerque; 1 injured

An explosion blew out one portion of the Hiway House Motel.

An explosion Friday night ripped off the side of one portion of the historic Hiway House Motel in Albuquerque, sending one person to the hospital.

The blast at the motel, at 3200 Central Ave. (aka Route 66) near Kellys Brew Pub, prompted evacuations and street closings, reported the Albuquerque Journal.

Firefighters found a damaged room and “extensive structural damage to the building.” There was no fire after the blast, but a large portion of the motel’s wall along Bryn Mawr had been blown into the street, exposing plumbing and wiring and damage to both upstairs and downstairs rooms.
“Multiple units were affected, and one individual required treatment and transport,” according to Albuquerque Fire Rescue.
Officials did not give information about the person’s condition. […]
Fire Rescue said the cause of the explosion is under investigation, but police at the scene told witnesses and neighbors it involved a personal oxygen tank.

KRQE-TV reported Saturday that New Mexico Gas Company workers were at the scene Saturday afternoon.

Attempts to call the motel at its listed number Sunday morning were unsuccessful.

The Hiway House chain was started in 1956.

The motel’s website contains this history of the establishment, which once was a part of a lodging chain.

Hiway House was a motor hotel chain founded in 1956 at Phoenix, Arizona by the late Del Webb, a construction magnate who owned the New York Yankees baseball team and later created the Sun City retirement communities. A remnant of the old Hiway House chain is still in operation at Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The chain soon became a fixture throughout the Southwest. Ultimately, there would be Del Webb’s Hiway House locations at Phoenix, Holbrook; Flagstaff; and Tucson, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Abilene, Texas; and Blythe, Palm Springs, and Arcadia, California.
In 1955 before starting the Hiway House chain, Webb was one of the initial key investors of Ramada Inns, a new upstart chain of roadside hotels in the Southwestern states of Arizona, California and Texas that was founded by Marion W. Isbell. Today, Ramada (now Ramada Franchise Systems) is one of the world’s largest lodging chains and owned by Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.
Webb sold the Hiway House chain in the early 1960s, which then took the name Sentry Hiway House. The chain remained in operation until sometime after 1970, by which time most of the hotels were sold off and changed their names with some of them becoming franchises of competing lodging chains.

(Image of the Hiway House Motel sign in Albuquerque by Albert Mock via Flickr; an image of the explosion damage at the Hiway House Motel via KRQE screen-capture image from video)

3 thoughts on “Explosion damages Hiway House Motel in Albuquerque; 1 injured

  1. The last time I used an “oxygen tank” it certainly was not “personal”, but communal. Passengers on the train from Lima up into the Andes were invited to put their lips to a teat attached to a hose attached to a steel bottle carried through the train by a railway attendant – and have a breath or two. I did at one time have a job delivering full oxygen cylinders in exchange for empty ones to people housebound from various lung and heart conditions. I never had one of them blow up on the user. Or was the person in the Hiway House Motel a junkie, needing a fix – or just snifffing it for kicks? There are many ways to “Get Your Kicks On Route 66”.

    1. I suspect, given there was only one injury in the blast, a chronically ill and disabled person living in the motel as a full-time resident had a few of the oxygen bottles for personal use, and one sprung a leak. It requires only a spark from a cigarette or gas water heater to touch off an explosion. Pure oxygen is nothing to be trifled with.

  2. That could well be the case, Ron. As I said, when my job was to deliver oxygen bottles to the homes of people who often spent most of the day in a chair wearing a mask, and with a bottle by their side, I never heard of accidents of the sort you described.

    From reading the Route 66 articles, what comes across is large numbers of down-and-out people in different mental states with different levels of self-responsibility living in cheap accommodation, mostly old motels in poor states of repair and no one supervising the occupants. Presumably the occupants are on some form of benefit from the taxpayer.

    Here in the UK, coastal resort towns that have lost their attraction for holidaymakers (mainly because air travel has become so cheap) have been seized upon by local councils all around the country as somewhere to send ‘homeless’ people at a lower cost than housing them in their own home towns. The ‘homeless’ people are put up in otherwise unoccupied boarding houses and cheap hotels and they live off benefits from the taxpayer. Some may be in need of oxygen bottles, but again I have never read of any of them having such an accident with one. In this case, it may have been the combination of drink, a cigarette and a leaking connection. Even so, there would have had to be a large cloud of leaked oxygen to have caused such an explosion.

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