Police and federal agents searched the charred site of a Nashville Christmas Day explosion Saturday, trying to determine how and why a motor home exploded and injured three people in the heart of the United States’ country music capital. United.
The blast of fire, heard from miles away, destroyed several vehicles, damaged more than 40 businesses and left a trail of glass shards around the area.
The motorhome, parked on a street in downtown Tennessee’s largest city, exploded at dawn Friday moments after police responding to the shooting reports noticed the RV and heard an automated message emanating from it warning of a bomb.
The means of detonation and whether anyone was inside the motorhome when it exploded were not immediately known, but investigators were examining what they believed could be human remains found in the vicinity of the explosion, police said.
Police did not offer a possible motive, and there was no claim of liability, although officials with the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department called the blast an “intentional act” and promised to determine its origin.
Dozens of agents from the FBI and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were inspecting the ashen disaster area Saturday. Inside the area, which was blocked to traffic, parked cars and trees were blackened and a burst water pipe that had been spraying overnight covered the trees with a layer of ice.
A total of 41 businesses were damaged, said Mayor John Cooper.
“All the windows went from the living room to the bedroom. The front door was disrupted, ”Buck McCoy, who lives on the block where the blast occurred, told local television station WKRN. “Blood was coming out of my face, my side, my legs and a little bit from my feet.”
McCoy told CNN that he and some neighbors were returning to the area on Saturday looking for pets they had been forced to leave behind.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said he toured the disaster area on Saturday and said in a Twitter message that it was a “miracle” that no one died. In a letter to President Donald Trump, Lee requested a federal emergency declaration for his state to assist in relief efforts.
A RECORD, THEN AN EXPLOSION
Adding to the cryptic nature of Friday’s incident was the eerie preamble described by witnesses: a crackle of gunfire followed an apparently computer-generated female voice from the RV reciting a minute-by-minute countdown to an imminent bomb explosion.
Police rushed to evacuate nearby homes and buildings and called in a bomb squad, which was still on its way to the scene when the RV exploded just outside an AT&T Inc office building where it had been parked.
Later, police released a photo of the motor home, which they said had arrived in the area about four hours before the explosion.
Firefighters said three people were hospitalized with relatively minor injuries and were in stable condition. Authorities said police likely averted more casualties by acting quickly to clear the area of passersby.
The explosion occurred about two blocks from Lower Broadway, where some of Nashville’s famous live music venues are located. The Ryman Auditorium, former home of the Grand Ole Opry and just three blocks from the scene of the blast, was not damaged. The current Gaylord Opryland and Grand Ole Opry complexes, which are located outside of the city center, were not affected.
Damage from the blast to AT&T facilities led to widespread fiber optic television, internet and telephone service outages in central Tennessee and parts of several neighboring states, including Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia.
AT & T’s efforts to restore services overnight were thwarted when a fire reignited in the company’s downtown office at the site of the blast, but the company said in a statement Saturday that it was deploying portable cell sites in downtown Nashville and throughout the region.