The owners of a five-star hotel in central London are facing a massive fine after a gas explosion in the basement put staff and guests in peril.
Fourteen workers were injured and about 500 guests had to be evacuated from the Hyatt Regency Hotel — The Churchill after the blast in November 2014.
Investigators traced the source of the explosion to a corroded gas pipe in the basement area which had not been properly maintained.
The hotel in Portman Square, which once played host to President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Tony Blair, remained closed for more than four months after the explosion as the owners repaired the damage and took the chance for extensive refurbishment work.
An investigation by Westminster city council ultimately led to criminal charges against the hotel’s owners, The Churchill Group, and its operators, Hyatt Holdings.
At Southwark crown court on Tuesday, The Churchill Group pleaded guilty to a health and safety breach as “gas installation pipework had not been maintained over a long period of time by a competent ‘gas safe’ registered person and this led to a gas explosion”.
Hyatt Holdings had earlier admitted two breaches of health and safety laws by failing to risk-assess or maintain the gas pipes, leading to the explosion which “seriously injured a person working there, causing further injury to at least two others working there, and putting at risk those guests staying in the 430-room hotel, those visiting it, and other subcontractors working there”, according to the charges.
Both companies will be back in court on June 19 for the start of a two-day sentencing hearing, and face being hit with large fines. The hotel was packed at the time of the explosion on November 21, 2014, with visitors to London and guests who had flown in for Christmas shopping sprees.
They reported the building shaking and being plunged into darkness after the 11.40pm blast, and having to deal with “chaotic” scenes as they made their way out of the hotel.
One guest told the Standard that he and his wife feared they had been caught up in a terrorist attack.
The hotel said after the explosion that five members of its staff had needed hospital treatment, including one with a broken leg.