Tennessee Gov asks Trump for emergency aid after a parked RV exploded in downtown Nashville in an incident police say was ‘intentional’

Nashville Explosion
Smoke billows from the site of an explosion in the area on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn. Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard early Christmas morning.

  • An RV exploded in downtown Nashville on Friday morning, according to local reports.
  • Buildings are damaged, and three people were taken to hospitals. 
  • Local authorities told CNN that they believe the act was done intentionally.
  • A video circulating online appears to show a recording telling people to leave the area just before the explosion set off.
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Local emergency services were dispatched after an explosion rattled downtown Nashville early on Christmas morning, damaging buildings and blowing out windows.

CNN reported that authorities said they believe the incident was done intentionally.

“We do believe this to have been an intentional act,” Don Aaron, a spokesperson with the Metro Nashville Police Department, told CNN. “Significant damage has been done to the infrastructure there on 2nd Avenue North.”

Authorities have not yet named any suspects involved in the explosion, but CBS reported that police have identified people of interest who they believe are connected to the incident. 

At least three people have been transported to hospitals, CNN reported. There have not yet been any reports of critical injuries, a representative of the Nashville fire department told CNN.

“It’s a miracle that no residents were killed,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee in a Saturday morning tweet. Lee said he and his wife toured the site where the explosion occurred and saw “shocking” damage. 

The explosion came from a parked RV, ABC News reported. Emergency crews are attempting to determine the cause of the explosion. One local business owner told The Tennessean that the RV had been there since at least Thursday night.

 

John Drake, chief of the Metro Nashville Police Department, told a local Fox News affiliate that the area was immediately evacuated after one officer noticed an RV playing a recording that warned people to leave the area. 

The recording announced that a bomb would go off in 15 minutes, according to reports. 

“There were a number of people who did evacuate and then we know of some people, it didn’t go off when the message said it would, and so people started coming back in, and then it went off,” Nashville Vice Mayor Jim Shulman told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden had been briefed on the incident, the Hill reported.

“The President is grateful for the incredible first responders and praying for those who were injured,” said White House spokesperson Judd Deere. 

On Saturday morning, Gov. Lee tweeted out a request for Trump to declare an emergency and allocate federal aid to support recovery efforts. 

“Preliminary reports show 41 businesses were damaged by the explosion. These buildings, many of which are historic, and others will need to be assessed by an engineer for structural integrity and safety,” he wrote in a letter requesting emergency assistance.

“The severity and magnitude of the current situation is such that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments,” he added in the letter. “As a result, federal assistance under the Stafford Act is necessary to supplement the efforts and available resources.” 

The Stafford Act allows a president to declare an incident or circumstance a national emergency and move federal resources to aid those affected by it.

 

Buck McCoy, who lives near the area, told the Associated Press: “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.” 

“It felt like a bomb. It was that big,” he added. Local reports said the explosion could be heard from miles away.

Police say the explosion occurred outside a building on Second Avenue North. They closed a 10-block radius around the explosion site.

Nashville Explosion
Plumes of smoke rise next to the Regions Building near the explosion reported in the area on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn. Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard early Christmas morning

Authorities are not aware of whether anyone was inside the vehicle. 

CBS News first reported that possible human remains were found near the explosion, but law enforcement told the outlet it’s still unclear whether the remains belonged to a victim or someone connected to the explosion. 

Local and federal agencies, including the FBI, are investigating the incident, according to a press release from the Nashville Police Department. The area has been shut down to accommodate the investigation.

The Federal Aviation Administration has temporarily barred pilots from flying through the airspace above the explosion cite, classifying it as “national Defense Airspace,” according to ABC affiliate WKRN. Pilots flying into the area “may be intercepted, detained and interviewed by law enforcement/security personnel,” WKRN reported.

As the Tennessean reported, the explosion caused damage to AT&T facilities, which affected service for some in Nashville and other nearby areas, a spokesperson told the outlet. Flights from the Nashville International Airport and emergency lines like 911 access to police was also disrupted as a result of the explosion, the Tennessean reported. 

AT&T is actively working with local authorities to repair services, as well as dispatched national disaster recovery teams to fix the problem, the company said in a statement Friday evening.

“Power is essential to restoring wireless and wireline communications and we are working with law enforcement to get access to our equipment and make needed repairs. Given the damage to our facility, it will take time to restore service,” the statement said. “We have already rerouted significant traffic from this facility and are bringing in other equipment, including numerous portable cell sites to the area.”

In a tweet shortly after the incident, Gov. Lee expressed his condolences for those injured.

“We will supply all of the resources needed to determine what happened and who was responsible,” he said, adding he is “praying for those who were injured and we thank all of our first responders who acted so quickly this morning.”

This story is developing. Please check back for more updates.

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