On October 1
Investigators searched Sunday for clues behind a thundering explosion that destroyed a mall, injuring five people and rattling residents for miles on a peaceful morning in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia.
Blast Saturday pulled through a mall in downtown Harrisonburg, where businesses included a family-owned halal market, musical instrument store and recording studio, as well as a nail salon and barber shop.
Nearby James Madison University announced in a Facebook post that three students from the school’s Army ROTC program who competed in a 10-mile race were among the injured. The explosion occurred about 30 meters from the start and finish lines of the race, the school said.
Damon Boyd, who was working nearby when the explosion broke out, told the Daily-News Record that he and his crew were rushing to the scene. An injured man on the ground “started yelling that he was dying,” said Boyd. “It looked like something hit him in the face.”
Although Governor Ralph Northam tweeted that government emergency personnel had been stationed in the area following a so-called gas explosion, Harrisonburg fire chief Matt Tobia said the cause is being investigated.
City spokesman Michael Parks, who said the investigation would likely take several days, said there was no evidence of a bad game.
Investigation in progress: An explosion is under investigation into several injuries at a Virginia mall
One of the injured JMU students was hospitalized, but is expected to be released quickly, the university said. Two other students were treated on site and released, the school said.
The university said the other two injured were not affiliated with the JMU. City officials said the other two were flown to the University of Virginia medical center in severe condition and are “now stable”.
Pat Doorenbos, who lives about half a mile away, said her house was “literally shaken” and she feared a plane had crashed or a tanker was blown up on Interstate 81.
“I grew up on a farm and thought that sounds like gas or oil.” There couldn’t be anything so big that would rock my house, “she told the Daily News record.
JMU student Matthew Jenkins remembered a jolt early Saturday morning.
“I just heard a loud bang and was thrown into my wall,” Jenkins told WTVR. “My head hit the wall and I thought something had crashed into the building, so I looked outside and … I saw a big mushroom cloud.”
The mall was a “total loss,” Parks said, and damage was reported to other structures.
Harrisonburg, a town of 50,000 with breathtaking mountain views and a vibrant arts scene, is a hub for outdoor recreation. In addition to the JMU, the Eastern Mennonite University is located here.
Contributor: The Associated Press
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