B&B steps up in hotel crisis

Last updated 12:58 03/07/2014
 Neville and Sally Bennett
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ
GUEST DELUGE: Neville and Sally Bennett and their dog Baxter at the Cathedral Inn bed and breakfast in Trafalgar Square sheltered more than 90 hotel guests Last night.

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Hotel evacueated after gas leak

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Sally and Neville Bennett had more than 90 unexpected guests at their home last night - all evacuated from Nelson's Rutherford Hotel after a gas leak.

The Bennetts run the Cathedral Inn bed and breakfast nearby in Trafalgar St, and their son Rene is the assistant manager at the Rutherford.

When the Rutherford was evacuated  in the middle of the cold night, Rene called his sleeping parents asking them to take in the hotel guests.

"They could not really stand outside, it was really cold," said Sally.

Some arrived in taxis, others walked up the hill, and they piled into the inn's two living rooms.

Some had managed to dress after being woken by the hotel's alarm but others were in bathrobes and pyjamas. The Bennetts rallied with cups of tea and coffee as they waited for the all-clear.

‘‘Some were a bit tired and started to doze off where they were sitting, most were pretty happy.  They weren’t grumpy – they would have been a bit grumpy if they had been kept outside. They didn’t go back until about 2.30am.’’

Emergency services had been called to the hotel in Nile St East at 11.30pm. Nelson Fire Service station officer Grahame Kurth said a smoke-like product was leaking on the first floor by the gym.

They were initially unable to identify it but traced it to a bank of freezers.  Because they were getting a high reading on a gas detection system they decided the evacuation was needed. The refrigerant gas was turned off and it cleared through the hotel’s ventilation system.  A refrigeration engineer was called in to fix the leak.

The gas in sufficient volume could cause breathing problems and shut down body systems, he said.

‘‘We did not have an exceptionally high reading but it was up to the mark where we had to do something about it,’’ said Kurth.

Firefighters dealing with the gas leak wore protective chemical suits and were decontaminated in showers afterwards.

Fire crews from Stoke and Richmond, as well as police and ambulance, were also called in to deal with the emergency.

Some guests were at the hotel for a Community Housing Aotearoa conference being held there today.

 CHA director Scott Figenshow, who was woken by the hotel alarm, said guests were initially uncertain about how serious it was, thinking it was a fire, but were later told of the gas leak.

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He believed it was handled well. ‘‘We just hope nothing happens and it goes well here for the next few days.’’

- The Nelson Mail

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