Tags: Explosion | Nashville | vehicle | intentional | police

Massive Explosion Rocks Downtown Nashville

Massive Explosion Rocks Downtown Nashville
Emergency personnel work at the scene of an explosion in downtown Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Dec. 25, 2020. Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard early Christmas morning.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Friday, 25 December 2020 04:33 PM

An explosion shook the largely deserted streets of downtown Nashville early Christmas morning, shattering windows, damaging buildings and wounding three people. Authorities said they believed the blast was intentional.

Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said police were responding to a report of shots fired when they encountered a recreational vehicle blaring a recording that said a potential bomb was to detonate in 15 minutes. Police evacuated nearby buildings and called in the bomb squad.

“Shortly after that, the RV exploded," Drake said at a midday news conference.

The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights out of Nashville International Airport due to telecommunications issues associated with the explosion in downtown Nashville. Service was expected to resume by 3 p.m. local time.

Surveillance video published on a Twitter account Friday that appeared to be recorded from across the street captured an audio recording that included the warning, “... if you can hear this message, evacuate now.” The blast was captured on the surveillance video seconds later.

Metro Nashville Police Department spokesman Don Aaron said three people were taken to area hospitals for treatment, although none were in critical condition. He said some people were taken to the department’s central precinct for questioning but declined to give more details.

The FBI will be taking the lead in the investigation, said spokesman Joel Siskovic. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also on the scene. The FBI is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for investigating federal crimes, such as explosives violations and acts of terrorism.

At noon, police dogs continued to search cars and buildings in the nearby area.

Betsy Williams, the owner of the Melting Pot building across the street, told The Tennessean that the RV had been parked on the street since Thursday night.

Williams said she heard the sound of loud, rapid-fire gunshots at about 4:30 a.m. After more gunshots, she called 911. She then heard a repeated warning coming from the RV that seemed to be a recording of some sort.

“Evacuate now. There is a bomb. A bomb is in this vehicle and will explode,” she remembers the recorded warning saying.

Then, she said, the voice started a 15-minute countdown.

Williams said she, her spouse and family left the lofts in their pajamas. She took her cat Mavis but left her valuables behind.

A Philadelphia man staying in a nearby hotel said that when he heard the blast, he was knew it wasn’t a harmless noise.

“It was a very loud explosion,” said Joseph Fafara. “We tried to rationalize it that it was an earthquake or something. But it was obvious it wasn’t an earthquake.” He said he traveled to Tennessee with his family on Christmas because the state has looser COVID-19 restrictions than Philadelphia.

Fafara went outside to look at the damage but police barricades had already been put in place.

Black smoke and flames were seen early Friday billowing from the area, which is packed with bars, restaurants and other retail establishments and is known as the heart of downtown Nashville's tourist scene.

Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard.

Buck McCoy, who lives near the area, posted videos on Facebook that show water pouring down the ceiling of his home. Alarms blare in the background and cries of people in great distress ring in the background. A fire is visible in the street outside.

McCoy says he says he heard gun fire 15 minutes before the explosion rocked his building. McCoy said the windows of his home were entirely blown out.

“All my windows, every single one of them got blown into the next room. If I had been standing there it would have been horrible,” he said.

“It felt like a bomb. It was that big,” he told The Associated Press.

“There were about four cars on fire. I don’t know if it was so hot they just caught on fire, and the trees were all blown apart,” he said.

President Donald Trump has been briefed, according to White House spokesperson Judd Deere, who said that Trump, who is spending the holidays in Florida, will continue to receive regular updates. The U.S. Justice Department said Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen was also briefed and directed all department resources be made available to help with the investigation.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said on Twitter that the state would provide the resources necessary “to determine what happened and who was responsible. Please join @MariaLeeTN and me in praying for those who were injured and we thank all of our first responders who acted so quickly this morning.”

Nashville Mayor John Cooper said the city was lucky that the number of injuries was limited.

Andrew McCabe, a former deputy FBI director, told CNN that an explosion of this size would be investigated as a possible act of terrorism. He said it was possible police were the target of the explosions given they were answering a report of a suspicious vehicle when it blew up.

McCabe said it was unclear whether the timing on Christmas Day factored in the blast. He said investigators would be looking into whether any buildings in the area were a target.

Freddie O’Connell, a Nashville council member for the area affected by the explosion, told The New York Times that a lot of people had lost their homes.

“2020 already had plenty of devastation,” Mr. O’Connell said. “It’s hard to wake up on Christmas morning and see more of it in my hometown.”

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


   
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An explosion linked to a vehicle rocked downtown Nashville on Christmas morning, sending shattered glass and debris over a wide area and rocking nearby buildings.The Metro Nashville Police Department said via Twitter that the explosion occurred at 6:30 a.m. Friday and that...
Explosion, Nashville, vehicle, intentional, police
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2020-33-25
Friday, 25 December 2020 04:33 PM
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