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AP team rushes to historic Texas hotel explosion

Workers survey damage near the Sandman Signature hotel following an explosion, Jan. 8, 2024, in Fort Worth, Texas. AP PHOTO / JULIO CORTEZ

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JULIO CORTEZ, JAMIE STENGLE AND KENDRIA LAFLEUR

The first images to trickle out on social media were startling: Smoke coming from the bottom floors of a historic Texas hotel in downtown Fort Worth, along with debris and blown-out windows littering typically busy streets in the middle of a Monday workday. With the scale of the destruction and injuries not yet known, a team from the Dallas bureau — chief photographer Julio Cortez, video journalist Kendria LaFleur and reporter Jamie Stengle — jumped into action without hesitation and raced toward Fort Worth.

Their hustle to the scene and determined reporting around the hotel provided AP with widely used images, accounts of eyewitnesses and strong video that also boosted promotion on AP’s social media platforms. One of Cortez’s images, an investigator walking through the rubble after the blast that injured more than 20 people, anchored the top of The Dallas Morning News’ website for most of the night and the following morning.

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