GATESVILLE — The Coryell Memorial Hospital officially reopened Monday and will start accepting patients today after an explosion June 26 forced an evacuation and shutdown of the hospital.
“Everyone is back to work, all 550 (staff members),” hospital spokeswoman Carly Latham said. The hospital employs 550 people, 450 of which are full-time employees. “The hospital opens Tuesday and surgery is the only thing that is not open. That will open next Monday.”
At a news conference Monday, hospital CEO David Byrom confirmed the hospital would begin seeing regular patients and also said long-term residents of The Oaks assisted living facility and The Meadows nursing home facility began returning to the hospital Sunday.
“We want to let everyone know we’re back after a Herculean effort,” Byrom said. “We’re continuing to heal and move forward.”
Twenty-nine assisted living residents returned home yesterday (Sunday),” Byrom said. “The residents who have come back were ready to return home. There were a lot of smiles and tears.”
The residents themselves said they were happy to be home. Since the explosion last week, many had been living with family in the area or at other hospitals and living facilities across Central Texas.
“I was living with my daughter here in Gatesville, and it was heaven getting to live with her for a few days,” The Oaks resident Marilyn Sandhoff said. “But it is good to get home and see my friends here.”
Sandhoff said she was in her room when the explosion happened.
“I was fixing to leave the room when all of the sudden that loud blast happened,” she said. “It sounded like a bomb had gone off.”
Sandhoff said the hospital staff was quick to evacuate everyone and offer medical assistance to anyone who needed it.
“First they evacuated us to a gazebo outside, and then they quickly moved us to the church across the street,” she said. “I was there for a few hours before my daughter came and got me.”
Sandhoff was able to move back into her home at The Oaks on Sunday, and Byrom said the 78 residents who were displaced from The Meadows will hopefully be finished moving back in by tonight.
Initial investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s Office shows the explosion was likely caused by “a construction related accident resulting in a natural gas explosion.”
Gatesville police Chief Nathan Gohlke said the investigation is still ongoing and it could take up to six months to complete, as victims and witnesses continue to be interviewed.
Gohlke also said of the 14 people who were injured in the explosion, nine remain in area hospitals while five were released. Four of the five were released the day of the explosion, according to Gohlke.
Two men are at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, three workers are at San Antonio Military Medical Center in San Antonio, and four remain at Dell Seaton Medical Center in Austin, Gohlke said Sunday.
Two men died as a result of injuries received in the explosion.
Michael Bruggman, 43, of Rogers, died in the blast and a memorial service was held Monday. Filiberto Morales, 36, of Round Rock, was injured in the blast and died Thursday.
Gohlke said Morales’ death was not due to burn injuries. “He suffered concussion-type injuries,” he said.
The investigation into the explosion is ongoing, and more information will be released as it is made available.
Herald staff writer Emily Hilley-Sierzchula contributed to this report.