It started out as a tropical, relaxing getaway for some UK students on spring break in Mexico, but the way it ended was anything but relaxing.
Their hotel, the Best Western Playa Suites in Acapulco, caught fire early Sunday morning, sending them and more than a thousand other spring breakers running for their lives.
Elexene Mattingly is a freshman at UK. She and her friends woke up to people screaming "fire" in the halls, but she thought it was a joke. She says there were no fire alarms or smoke detectors going off, but when she opened the door, the entire place was filled with smoke.
"Guys were banging on the doors. They kicked in the doors. The halls were filled with smoke and it was billowing. Kids were trying to run out of there and trying to get friends up to make sure everyone was OK," she said.
She says it was chaos with people running down the halls with their luggage, but the smoke was so thick they couldn't see far.
She said, "There was glass everywhere. People were breaking the windows to try to get air, I guess." Once outside, Mattingly and her Tri Delta sorority sisters saw people "tying bed sheets together trying to repel from the balconies to safety."
Besides a sore throat, Mattingly is OK, but she says there were dozens of people taken away in ambulances and even more being led out of the hotel on stretchers. They were told there was at least one fatality, a security guard from the hotel, but that has not been confirmed.
As for how the fire started, Mattingly says "They told us it started in the laundry room in the basement. Someone threw a cigarette butt down the laundry chute or lit a towel on fire and threw it down there or something."
Several of her friends were stranded in Mexico because they couldn't get to their belongings including their plane tickets and passports. They should all return Monday or Tuesday.