NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Authorities have found possible human remains in the area where a Friday morning explosion rocked downtown Nashville and injured three people, an event police called “an intentional act” connected to an RV that blew up at approximately 6:30 a.m. local time, according to reports.
BREAKING: Audio warning was being broadcast before explosion rocked downtown Nashville. Video shows moment of blast. pic.twitter.com/3IvciFH6BV
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) December 25, 2020
It was unclear whether the remains were related to the explosion or if they were of the person responsible or a victim, officials said. The tissue will be examined, officials said. The FBI is investigating along with local officials and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the city of Nashville activated its Emergency Operations Center, Fox News reported.
“This appears to have been an intentional act,” Metro Nashville Police Department tweeted. “Law enforcement is closing downtown streets as investigation continues.”
An audio warning was being broadcast from an RV just before it blew up, Metro Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake told reporters during a news conference.
“If you can hear this message, evacuate now,” the warning said.
Officers first responded to the area after receiving a report of shots fired, Drake said. They called in the bomb squad after seeing the suspicious vehicle, the RV, broadcasting the message, he said. Drake said that officers found the RV with a recording saying that it would explode in 15 minutes.
“Basically (it) was saying that it was going to detonate within a certain time frame,” Drake told reporters. “The officers immediately began knocking on doors and evacuating residents here not knowing if the bomb was going to detonate immediately or if it was going to go off in the time that it stated.”
Footage from the scene on 2nd Ave North as multiple agencies continue to work and investigate an explosion from earlier this morning. pic.twitter.com/5g40RhwNNl
— Nashville Fire Dept (@NashvilleFD) December 25, 2020
As of late Friday evening, police did not know if anyone had been inside the vehicle at the time of the explosion.
Mayor John Cooper confirmed that three people suffered blast related injuries, but were reportedly in stable condition. Moreover, 41-area businesses and several homes sustained damage with several residents being displaced, fire Chief William Swann said.
The American Red Cross of Tennessee was assisting displaced victims.
Drake praised the actions of the six officers, Law Officer reported. He said if it were not for them, “we’d be talking not about the debris that we have here but also maybe potential people.”
He said investigators haven’t determined a motive for the explosion. He initially thought the incident was a propane explosion instead of an “intentional act,” he said.
The investigation is now being led by the FBI’s Memphis field office, and a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen “directed that all DOJ resources be made available to assist in the investigation.”
“We’re putting everything we have into finding who was responsible for what’s happened here today,” FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matt Foster told reporters during a Friday afternoon news conference. Drake told reporters at that time that he and his department “don’t feel there’s any concern to the downtown area” anymore.
“Right now, it’s a public safety concern, to make sure everybody is accounted for and to make sure the spread of the fire doesn’t go any further,” Michael Knight, a spokesman for the ATF in Nashville, told The Associated Press.
Law enforcement officials sealed off the downtown area and police K9s searched the area for any secondary devices. Police said they were also searching buildings in the area, Fox reported.
Buck McCoy, who lives near the area, posted videos on Facebook that show water pouring down the ceiling of his home. Alarms blared in the background and cries of people in great distress ring in the background. A fire is visible in the street outside. McCoy said the windows of his home were entirely blown out.
“I’m trying to come to the realization that everything that that place I’ve been living in for the last five years is completely demolished,” he told “America’s News HQ.”
He said he was asleep and heard gunfire outside around 5:30 a.m.
“Within 10 minutes, I was laying in bed and there was just the biggest explosion I’ve ever, ever heard,” he said. “This is not one of the Christmases I thought I would ever experience.”
“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.
BREAKING: This is the RV that exploded on 2nd Ave N this morning. It arrived on 2nd Ave at 1:22 a.m. Have you seen this vehicle in our area or do you have information about it? Please contact us via Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463 or online via https://t.co/dVGS7o0m4v. @ATFHQ pic.twitter.com/JNx9sDinAH
— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) December 25, 2020
“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.
The city had not received any threats prior to Fridays’ explosion, Drake said, who also speculated as to why it happened so early in the morning when no pedestrians were on the street.
“You would think this person didn’t want to harm people,” he said.
The blast caused noticeable tremors in the surrounding area and black smoke to rise.
“The entire @WKRN studio just shook,” the outlet’s alert desk anchor Josh Breslow tweeted. “Anyone else in Nashville just feel any weird shaking ??”
The entire @WKRN studio just shook. Anyone else in Nashville just feel any weird shaking ??
— Josh Breslow (@JoshBreslowWKRN) December 25, 2020
The mayor speculated about why Nashville was the site of Friday’s blast, WSMV-TV reported.
“We’re a famous place. People know where we are,” Cooper told reporters. “And if people want attention and publicity sometimes they think they can come here to get it. It’s not just New York and Los Angeles.”
According to social media posts, the explosion resulted in significant damage to a building that was on fire, with dozens of people evacuated.
BREAKING: Large explosion in downtown Nashville "heavy structural damage".. evacuting lofts @ 2nd/Commerce – per Nashville Fire radio traffic – some walking out on their own – glass and steel 'EVERYWHERE' – 2nd/Union staging
— Jason Steen (@jasonashville) December 25, 2020
BREAKING/(CON'T): NFD reports "20-30 people evacuated" from upper lofts – <5 require medical attention at this time, calling them the "walking wounded" w/non-serious injuries
— Jason Steen (@jasonashville) December 25, 2020
Friday’s explosion damaged some AT&T facilities, resulting in some issues with service in the area.
“Service for some customers in Nashville and the surrounding areas may be affected by damage to our facilities from the explosion this morning,” company spokesman Jim Greer told Fox News. “We are in contact with law enforcement and working as quickly and safely as possible to restore service.”
Swann said crews swept area buildings to make sure no personnel were inside. One structure collapsed due to the explosion and other buildings sustained water damage.
The water was shut off but “still the integrity of those buildings are in question,” he said.
Friday’s events also impacted operations at the Nashville International Airport when an air traffic control tower terminal and radar approach control facility lost phone and internet capabilities. A ground stop — the holding or limiting of traffic entering or departing from airspace in and around an airport — was ordered before it was lifted a short while later, Fox reported.
Cooper signed an executive order issuing a state of civil emergency along with a 48-hour curfew in the impacted area that took effect at 4:30 p.m.