Grand Jury Finds Insufficient Evidence Of Any Criminal Wrongdoing In Jail Explosion

November 21, 2014

An Escambia County Grand Jury has found that there was insufficient evidence to establish an criminal charges in connection with the April 2014 explosion at the Escambia County Jail.

According to the grand jury’s findings, gas clothes dryers are seen on  video pulling away from a wall in the flooded basement of the jail. At about the same time, natural gas records show a substantial spike in the amount of natural gas flowing into the Central Booking and Detention Center. The spike continued through the day and night of April 30.

During this time, both jail staff and inmates reported the smell of natural gas to jails supervisors and maintenance employees. A maintenance employee located what he thought was a leak at a propane tank farm located north of the facility. He cut off a valve which he believed stopped the leak. But reading taken from the tanks show the same level of propane before and after the flood; the grand jury found that the propane tanks were in no way responsible for the odor of gas within the jail.

At 11:15 p.m. on April 3, a spark from an unknown source ignited the natural gas causing an explosion.

Two inmates were killed and hundreds of staff and inmates were injured in the blast.

The grand jury recommended that:

  • The Central Booking and Detention Center and the main jail be returned to the supervision of  the sheriff for the most efficient operation of the facilities. The corrections facilities are currently under the control of the Escambia County Commission.
  • No future jail be built on the current site of the Central Booking and Detention Center.
  • Improvements be made in safety procedures. Employees believed they were limited in making emergency reports only to their immediate supervisors. It was recommended that a safety officer be appointed or designated on each shift.
  • The basement area of the Central Booking and Detention Center should have never been rebuilt following a 2012 flood. “We recommend that Escambia County make a full disclosure as to how this decision was made,” the grand jury’s report states.
  • Escambia County concentrate on storm water control measures, first on county owned facilities, then on Escambia County as a whole.
  • Pensacola Energy should review and locate any cut-off valves so that they are located outside flood prone areas. In addition, main gas lines should be marked to allow immediate access in case of an emergency.

The grand jury report concluded by commending the corrections officers and staff of the Central Booking and Detention Center for the outstanding job they did during the flood and subsequent explosion.

West All-Stars Beat The East In All-Star Volleyball

November 21, 2014

The West All-Stars defeated the East in the Subway High School All-Star Volleyball game Thursday night at the University of West Florida Field House.

Under the leadership of Heach Coach Erika Burkett of Tate High School, the West took the series in seven games 25-16, 23-25, 23-25, 23-25, 25-16, 25-17 and 15-9.

The West All-Star included the top seniors from Escambia County, while the East was comprised of the top senior players from Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties.

Team members were (with North Escambia area players in bold):

Head Coach: Erika Burkett, Tate
Assistant Coach: Kelly Comerford, Washington

  • Sina Faulk — Catholic
  • Emily Emmons — Catholic
  • Tru Viray — Escambia
  • Emily Enriquez — Escambia
  • Kyndall Hall — Northview
  • Elisabeth Larson — PCA
  • Yenny Wu — Pensacola
  • Anna Legassey — Pine Forest
  • Olivia Veith — Pine Forest
  • Regine Simmons — Tate
  • Jordan White — Tate
  • Carissa Carroll — Tate
  • Mallory Lurate — Washington
  • Morgan Pearson — Washington
  • Lauren Childers — Washington
  • Sydney Barrow — Washington
  • Melisa Izonritei — West Florida
  • Isabelle Strohl — West Florida

Head Coach: Waynn Sellers, Gulf Breeze
Assistant Coach: Amy Walls, Navarre

  • Hartley Moate — Baker
  • Brittney Amey — Central
  • Maya Smith — FWB
  • Emily Radcliffe — Gulf Breeze
  • Kathrin Hess — Gulf Breeze
  • Kassie Oldham — Gulf Breeze
  • Emily Russell — Jay
  • Bridget Zessin — Laurel Hill
  • Monica Foster — Navarre
  • Sheila Faris — Navarre
  • Abbey McLelland — Navarre
  • Sami Mims — Niceville
  • Michaela Dunn — Pace
  • Emili McClure — Pace
  • Laini Vermillion — Pace
  • Caroline Mayne — Pace

Pictured top: Tate Aggie players Regine Simmons, Carissa Carroll and Jordan White, and Coach Erika Burkett of Tate High School on the West All-Star volleyball team. Photo for, click to enlarge.

Driver Escapes Injury In Highway 29 McDavid Crash

November 20, 2014

An elderly female driver escaped injury when she lost control and ran into a wooded area on Highway 29 at Main Street in McDavid early Thursday afternoon. There were no other passengers or vehicles involved. The McDavid and Century stations of Escambia Fire Rescue, Escambia County EMS and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office responded to the crash. Photos for, click to enlarge.

Florida Bill Would Toughen Texting While Driving Ban

November 20, 2014

A South Florida lawmaker Wednesday filed a proposal that would strengthen the state’s ban on texting while driving, giving police officers more power to pull over motorists for tapping messages while behind the wheel.

The bill  filed by Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston, will be considered by lawmakers during the 2015 session.

Under current law, texting while driving is considered a “secondary” offense. That means drivers can only be cited if they are stopped by police for other reasons. But Stark’s bill would eliminate that restriction, giving police more authority to enforce the ban.

Also, the bill would double fines for people caught texting while driving in school zones or at designated school crossings.

Escambia Man Passes Away Two Months After Highway 29 Rollover Crash

November 20, 2014

As Escambia County man has passed away as result of injuries he received in single vehicle rollover accident two months ago in Cantonment.

The Florida Highway Patrol said 29-year old Brian L. Whitehead passed away Wednesday from injuries sustained in a September 20 crash on Highway 29 near Pinoak Lane.

Troopers said Whitehead lost control and the left rear tire of his 1995 Chevrolet Silverado struck a metal grate, causing the vehicle to spin and slide sideways into a concrete culvert. The vehicle slid up the culvert and became airborne and overturned several times, ejecting Whitehead. The vehicle came to rest on the driver’s side partially inside a northbound lanes.

Whitehead  was airlifted by LifeFlight to Baptist Hospital. There were no other occupants in the vehicle.

The Cantonment, Molino and Ensley stations of Escambia Fire Rescue, Escambia EMS and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the 11:19 p.m. accident. photos by Kristi Price, click to enlarge.

Sheriff’s Office Warns Of Telephone Scam

November 20, 2014

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office is warning area residents that a telephone con artist is posing as a deputy.

The con artist calls citizens and states that they are with the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office  and tells they will arrested on an outstanding warrant if they do not make a payment over the telephone. The caller has been described as “very convincing” and “confident” during the conversation.

These calls are not coming from your Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office. These are considered telephone scams. If you receive a call from these individuals, you are requested to not make any payments over the  phone to these individuals,” the agency said in a press release.

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office does not make solicitation telephone calls for warrants. The only communications with wanted individuals is by a postcard type mailer.

For more information concerning an active warrant, call the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office at (850) 981-2200.

Country Traffic Problems: Trucker Loses Three Tons Of Cotton

November 20, 2014

It was the kind of  traffic problem you only see in the country Wednesday afternoon in Oak Grove — a 6,000 pound bale of cotton blocking part of an intersection. A truck driver for a local cotton gin apparently did not immediately notice that the cotton bale had fallen out of his truck on Highway 164 at North Highway 99. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office stood by, directing drivers around the cotton bale until the driver returned a short time later looking for his lost cotton. photo, click to enlarge.

NHS Fellowship Of Christian Athletes Holds Community Worship Service

November 20, 2014

The Northview High School Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) sponsored a student led worship event Wednesday night in the school gymnasium.

Northview students joined with area churches to present the service which included music, student testimonies and a message from guest speaker Pastor Nathan Brown of Ray’s Chapel Baptist Church. photos, click to enlarge.

Operation Christmas Child Collections In Full Swing At FBC Bratt

November 20, 2014

Wednesday night, youth at the First Baptist Church of Bratt packed  shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child.

It’s National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child at the church. or the 21st year, the simple, gift-filled shoe boxes will bring Christmas joy and evangelistic materials to children in over 130 countries across the world.

The First Baptist  Church of Bratt is the official OCC Relay Center for the north end of Escambia County, FL, through next Monday. The FBC Bratt will also accept boxes from individuals, groups or churches in Escambia County, AL, again this year.

Remaining collection hours at the First Baptist Church of Bratt are:

  • Thursday, Nov. 20: 8 a.m. – noon
  • Friday, Nov. 21: 8 a.m. – noon
  • Saturday, Nov. 22: 8 a.m. – noon
  • Sunday, Nov. 23: 8 a.m. – noon, 4-6 p.m.
  • Monday, Nov. 24: 8 a.m. – 11 a.m.

Operation Christmas Child boxes should be packed in a specific manner, and there are changes this year. For more information, call Hawsey at the First Baptist Church of Bratt at (850) 327-6529, visit, or call (800) 353-5949. Resources are available for churches that wish to participate.

Pictured: Youth at the First  Baptist Church of Bratt packed Operation Christmas Child boxes Wednesday night. Photos by Marcella Wilson for, click to enlarge.

Thursday Is The Great American Smoke Out; Tobacco Free Florida Can Help

November 20, 2014

Thursday The Great American Smokeout, and the Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida program is encouraging tobacco users across the state to quit  or at least make a quit plan.

The Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, is currently in its 39th year. The observance raises awareness about the dangers of smoking and the many effective resources available to successfully quit.

“Though the prevalence of adult and youth smoking in Florida continues to decline we must remain vigilant in our efforts to help Floridians end their use of cigarette products,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “When you make the decision to quit you are taking a step in the right direction to improve health for yourself, your loved ones and your community.”

While quitting tobacco is difficult, it is not impossible. There are more former smokers in Florida than there are current smokers.[i] Those who have tried to quit in the past but relapsed are encouraged to try again. Many former smokers make several attempts before quitting permanently.

Tobacco Free Florida offers three “free and easy” ways to quit using tobacco:

  • CALL: Call the Florida Quitline at 1-877-U-CAN-NOW to speak with a Quit Coach who will help assess a user’s addiction and help create a personalized quit plan.
  • CLICK: Enroll in the Web Coach which will help to create a web-based quit plan unique to each individual user, visit
  • COME IN: Visit AHEC’s website,, to locate a local AHEC and sign up for Quit Smoking Now group classes.

The Department’s Tobacco Free Florida campaign is a statewide cessation and prevention campaign funded by Florida’s tobacco settlement fund. Tobacco users interested in quitting are encouraged to use one of the state’s three ways to quit. Since 2007, more than 93,400 Floridians have successfully quit using one of these free services.

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