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Nashville Explosion: RV Gave An Audio Warning Minutes Before It Exploded

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Nashville Fire Department
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Twitter

Updated 5:30 p.m. CST

A recreational vehicle parked on Nashville’s historic Second Avenue this morning gave an audio warning for people to evacuate before it exploded, injuring three, destroying the facades and streetscape of the tourist area and damaging a phone service transmission facility.

Security camera footage posted to YouTube of the moments leading up to the blast also include audio. “If you can hear this message, evacuate now,” a recorded voice says over and over.

Police say they heard the message, giving them roughly 15 minutes to clear nearby buildings.

“They heard the announcements coming from this vehicle. They took them seriously and were working to seal the streets to protect folks, and we think it worked. We think lives were saved,” says Don Aaron, spokesman for the Metro Nashville Police Department.

The FBI is now reviewing surveillance footage in the area and asking for witnesses to provide any tips they may have to fbi.gov/nashville.

“We need your leads. We need your help,” says FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt Foster. “We will find out what happened here.”

Authorities are also circulating an image of the RV, which they say arrived on the street at 1:22 a.m.

 
Updated 3:20 p.m. CST

A recreational vehicle parked on Nashville’s historic Second Avenue this morning gave an audio warning for people to evacuate before it exploded, destroying the facades and streetscape of the tourist area. 

Security camera footage posted to YouTube of the moments leading up to the blast also include audio. “If you can hear this message, evacuate now,” a recorded voice says over and over.

Police say they heard the message, giving them roughly 15 minutes to clear nearby buildings.

“They heard the announcements coming from this vehicle. They took them seriously and were working to seal the streets to protect folks, and we think it worked. We thinks lives were saved,” says Don Aaron, spokesman for the Metro Nashville Police Department.

The FBI is now reviewing surveillance footage in the area and asking for witnesses to provide any tips they may have to fbi.gov/nashville.

“We need your leads. We need your help,” says FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt Foster. “We will find out what happened here.”

As of right now, police say it may be just a coincidence that the blast occurred outside an AT&T transmission building at 166 2nd Ave. N. But people around the region, including various law enforcement agencies, have reported communication outages.

Affected agencies include:

“Service for some customers in Nashville and the surrounding areas may be affected by damage to our facilities from the explosion this morning,” AT&T spokesman Jim Geer says in a statement. “We are in contact with law enforcement and working as quickly and safely as possible to restore service.”
The AT&T outage has also caused the Federal Aviation Administration to temporarily halt flights at Nashville International Airport. The airport says in a tweet that service is expected to be restored at 3 p.m. and that an update will be provided. WeGo bus service has also lost phone service and had already suspended rides for the day.

Updated 12:55 p.m. CST

A recreational vehicle parked on Nashville’s historic Second Avenue this morning gave an audio warning for people to evacuate before it exploded, destroying the facades and streetscape of the tourist area. 

Security camera footage posted to YouTube of the moments leading up to the blast also include audio. “If you can hear this message, evacuate now,” a recorded voice says over and over.

Police say they heard the message, giving them roughly 15 minutes to clear nearby buildings.

“They heard the announcements coming from this vehicle. They took them seriously and were working to seal the streets to protect folks, and we think it worked. We thinks lives were saved,” says Don Aaron, spokesman for the Metro Nashville Police Department.

The FBI is now reviewing surveillance footage in the area and asking for witnesses to provide any tips they may have to fbi.gov/nashville.

“We need your leads. We need your help,” says FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt Foster. “We will find out what happened here.”

As of right now, police say it may be just a coincidence that the blast occurred outside an AT&T transmission building at 166 2nd Ave. N. But several people around the region, including the Mt. Juliet Police Department, have reported communication outages.

“Service for some customers in Nashville and the surrounding areas may be affected by damage to our facilities from the explosion this morning,” AT&T spokesman Jim Geer says in a statement. “We are in contact with law enforcement and working as quickly and safely as possible to restore service.”

What we know about the timeline

Nashville police responded to a call of shots fired at 5:30 this morning. Instead of gunfire, they found this suspicious RV that exploded as a bomb squad was en route.

The blast around 6:30 a.m. knocked down an officer and left another with temporary hearing loss, according to Aaron. The blast shattered windows and damaged buildings for several blocks, littering the street with bricks and debris. The explosion charred several cars and toppled trees lining the iconic street.

Despite the destruction, just three people were transported to hospitals with minor injuries. However, police say they do not know if there was anyone inside the RV.

The human toll would have been much higher had it not been a holiday.

“Any other morning, it would have been a much worse story,” Mayor John Cooper says.

No motive has been suggested, but investigators believe the explosion was intentional. However, they do not think there are other threats. Still, police are conducting protective sweeps with canine units. WeGo bus service has been suspended for the day as a precaution. Much of downtown remains shut down.

<--break->

Nashville Police responded to a call of shots fired early this morning on the city’s historic Second Avenue. Instead of gunfire, they found a suspicious RV that exploded as they called in a bomb squad. 

The blast from the recreational vehicle, around 6:30 a.m., knocked down an officer and left another with temporary hearing loss, according to MNPD spokesperson Don Aaron. The blast shattered windows and damaged buildings for several blocks, littering the street with bricks and debris.

At least three people have been transported to hospitals with injuries. The two taken to TriStar Centennial Medical Center were non-critical, according to a spokesperson.

Police do not know if anyone was inside the RV, but investigators believe the explosion was intentional. People who were on the street at the time are being interviewed by the FBI, which is leading the investigation.

Investigators do not believe there are other threats. But they are conducting productive sweeps with canine units. And WeGo bus service has been suspended for the day as a precaution. Much of downtown remains shut down.

Police plan to provide another update at noon Central time.

President Donald Trump has been briefed on the situation, according to a spokesperson. And Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen has offered any Department of Justice resources that could assist the investigation.

The explosion occurred between First and Second Avenues, and between Broadway and Church Streets. The Nashville Fire Department evacuated the downtown riverfront. They later attended to a building near the intersection of Second and Church which reportedly has flames coming through through the roof.

Residents from as far away as Brentwood reported feeling and hearing the blast. WPLN’s Tony Gonzalez, on the scene about an hour later, says windows along the river are blown out and various alarms are going off. The roof on one building is at least partially collapsed.

Mayor John Cooper addressed reporters around 9:30 a.m.

“It is hard to see so much glass, litter damage and debris. It looks like a blast site, which is hard to see on one of our historic streets,” Cooper says.

Aerial photos from NewsChannel5 show how powerful the blast was. There is no RV visible, though other cars appear to be burned.

Buck McCoy, who works at Legends Corner, posted this video on Facebook from Second Avenue from within a building where the windows were broken out and water poured down from fire sprinklers. Wailing can be heard from residents escaping the scene.

Downtown residents began posting photos to social media immediately.

Jeremy Schott, who lives in a high rise on Second Avenue and Demonbreun Street tells WPLN News the blast shook his building, though he initially thought it was thunder. He watched fire personnel and police running around the scene. As of 7:45 a.m., he had not been asked to evacuate.

This story may be updated.

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