On Sunday, November 14, 2010 an explosion tore through the lobby of the Grand Riviera Princess Hotel in Playa del Carmen leaving seven people dead, five of them Canadians. Eight Canadians were counted among the 18 injured. The explosion blew out windows in a lounge area and left behind a metre-deep crater, littering the lawn with concrete and debris.
A preliminary report from the Mexican authorities this past week suggested a build up of methane gas from local swamps underneath the hotel’s concrete foundation somehow ignited and caused the blast. However, another government agency felt some sort of malfunction at the hotel itself was the more likely cause.
Mexican authorities have now opened a homicide investigation. Apparently three Canadian families have filed homicide complaints with them and two families have filed injury complaints. This investigation is going to focus on possible causes of the blast and whether or not those causes could be the result of negligence. It will examine whether faulty construction or lax maintenance lead to an accumulation of gas, which is believed to be the source of the explosion.
Just today, November 20, state officials have ordered the hotel to close half of its rooms after investigators discovered leaks of propane and waste water. It is not known at this time if these problems are the result of the explosion or part of the suspected irregularities reported in the hotel’s construction.
The Canadian victims are Christopher Charmont, 41, and his nine-year-old son, John, from Drumheller, Alta.; Malcolm Johnson, 33; Darlene Ferguson , a 51-year-old grandmother from Edmonton; and Elgin Barron, 51, from Guelph, Ont..
Mr. Malcolm Johnson, a realtor with Coast Realty in Nanaimo, B.C., had travelled to Mexico to get married. The ceremony had taken place only four days before the blast. Johnson had supposedly gone to the lobby to get his wife a coffee when the explosion occurred. He leaves behind his wife, Heather Pynten and a one year old daughter.
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