'Evacuate now. There is a bomb': Human remains reportedly found near explosion in Nashville that damaged 41 buildings, injured 3
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The FBI opened an investigation Friday into an explosion that broke out downtown early Christmas morning. This incident rocked residents for miles, destroyed several blocks and is labeled "intentional" by the authorities.
Mayor John Cooper, who gave the final update for the evening, said relief that no more people were injured has now turned to anger and determination to bring those responsible to justice.
"This has been a terrible day, but Nashville has faced other challenges, especially this year. We can rebuild and get back to normal," he said. "This morning's attack on our community should create chaos and fear in this time of peace and hope, but the spirit of our city cannot be broken."
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Authorities say the explosion was deliberate and deliberate. Police have found out what they believe are human remains but had not confirmed any deaths as of Friday afternoon.
Cooper said Nashville wouldn't let that stop them from finding the people who staged the blast.
"It will be some time before Second Avenue is back to normal," he said, reporting that at least 41 companies in the area had been damaged in connection with the explosion.
Police responded to reports of gunfire fired near Second Avenue and Commerce Street before 6 a.m. when they saw a suspicious RV outside a nearby AT&T building.
Officers alerted the department's bombing squad, which was en route when a "significant explosion" occurred about 30 minutes later, Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said. The force of the explosion knocked an officer to the ground.
Betsy Williams, the owner of The Melting Pot, a restaurant across from the blast, told The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network, that guests reported that the RV had been stationed there since Thursday night.
Williams, who lives in a loft apartment on the third floor of the restaurant building, said she heard the sound of louder, faster shots around 4:30 a.m. After several rounds of fire, Williams called 911. She said she heard a repeated warning coming from the RV parked in front of her building.
"Evacuate now. There's a bomb there. There's a bomb in this vehicle and it's going to explode, ”she remembers the recorded warning message. Then, she said, the voice started a 15-minute countdown.
Her family went to the Nissan Stadium about half a mile away and waited. When they didn't hear an explosion, they went back. Then they saw a ball of fire fly over the AT&T building on Second Avenue.
"Whoever did it gave a fair warning," said Williams.
Three people were hospitalized with injuries, police said. Nobody is in critical condition. At least 20 buildings were damaged, said Nashville Mayor John Cooper.
Police said it was unclear if anyone was in the RV when it exploded. The "tissue" found near the site had to be examined to confirm whether it was human.
Cooper announced on Friday afternoon that he had imposed a civil emergency at the site of the explosion and in the surrounding area, with a curfew starting at 4:30 p.m. Friday. until Sunday 4:30 p.m.
Nashville Metro Police walked door-to-door downtown canine to search nearby buildings and cars, although there is no evidence of additional equipment.
Several people were taken to the department's central district for questioning, but authorities declined to provide further details on Friday morning.
The FBI is taking the lead in the investigation, said spokesman Joel Siskovic, and will work with state and local authorities. Federal alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives investigators were also in Nashville late Friday morning.
Smoke rises from downtown after an explosion in the second and commerce area on December 25, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn.
The sound of the explosion could be heard from a distance, and people reported shaking windows from south and east Nashville.
Clouds of black smoke filled the air and multiple fires blazed on a normally busy street that intersects with Nashville's famous tourist attraction, Lower Broadway. Alarms went off in several buildings and water leaked into some buildings, causing structural damage and breaking windows.
The trees on Second Avenue were blackened by the incident.
AT & T's internet and phone service has reportedly been disrupted nationwide - mostly in Tennessee - due to the explosion near an AT&T service facility.
Flights from Nashville International Airport were halted Friday afternoon due to telecommunications issues related to the incident. The airport reported shortly before 6 p.m. that most flights will resume, but there may be delays.
The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp announced Friday afternoon a contribution of $ 10,000 for a reward that is currently at $ 31,000.
"Like everyone else, we woke up this Christmas morning to the terrible news of the explosion on Second Avenue. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go with everyone involved or affected," said Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of NCVC, in a statement. "Then we'll show the world who we are. Thank you for everything you do for our city and stay safe. I believe in Nashville."
Governor Bill Lee said in a statement that the state would provide the necessary resources to determine what happened and who is responsible.
U.S. attorney Don Cochran said at a news conference Friday afternoon that he had contacted acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffery Rosen, who said he had devoted all of the Justice Department's resources to help.
Cooper said he inspected the damage and described broken glass and water pipes with insulation "blown" into the trees.
"It looks like a bomb went off," he said. Downtown will be "cordoned off" for further investigation and to make sure everything is "perfectly safe," he said.
He said the city was lucky that the number of injuries from the explosion was limited.
"Another 2020 Nashville event," said Cooper.
President Donald Trump has been briefed and continues to receive regular updates, according to White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere.
"The president is grateful for the incredible first responders and prays for the injured," Deere said in a statement.
Andrew Carr, who lives in the Viridian Apartments on Fourth Avenue and Church Street, told The Tennessean that he jumped out of bed when he heard what sounded like a "huge clap of thunder."
He looked out the window and said he saw a "giant ball of fire" rising from behind an AT&T building on Second Avenue and Commerce Street - describing it almost as "wide as the building itself."
Carr said for the next hour that he and his family had seen the clouds of black smoke rise into the sky and later could see debris on the AT&T building.
The residents of the apartment building, he said, should lock themselves off.
The owner of the nearby Nashville Downtown Hostel informed Tennessean guests that they had been evacuated to Nissan Stadium for protection. He said he received a call early Friday from his staff who reported they heard a "loud bang" and set off the fire alarm.
He said the hostel was damaged but didn't go into details.
The American Red Cross of Tennessee is working with officials to open a shelter for the victims.
"We'll find out who did that," said the responsible special agent Matt Foster at a press conference on Friday afternoon. "This is our city too. We are doing everything we can to find out who was responsible for what happened here today."
Anyone with information about the explosion is encouraged to submit information at www.fbi.gov/Nashville.
Contributor: The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Explosion in Nashville: downtown buildings damaged; 3 hospitalized
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