Trump, Biden briefed on Nashville explosion preceded by warning
Three people were wounded when a recreational vehicle exploded early Friday in downtown Nashville in what authorities are describing as an “intentional act.”
“Federal, state and local law enforcement partners are on the scene to investigate what we believe was an intentional act,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) said in a Friday morning tweet.
We will supply all of the resources needed to determine what happened and who was responsible. Please join @MariaLeeTN and me in praying for those who were injured and we thank all of our first responders who acted so quickly this morning.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) December 25, 2020
Both President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden were briefed on the Christmas morning incident, their spokespeople said.
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement that Trump, who is in Florida for the Christmas holiday, “will continue to receive regular updates. The President is grateful for the incredible first responders and praying for those who were injured.”
The Biden-Harris transition team said in its own statement Friday afternoon that Biden and his wife Jill “thank all the first responders working today in response to the incident, and wish those who were injured a speedy recovery.”
Officers were responding to reports of shots fired at about 5:30 a.m. in the downtown area when they heard a recording coming from an RV saying a bomb would detonate within 15 minutes, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said at a news conference Friday afternoon. Officers then evacuated nearby buildings, he said.
In a video posted on social media, a voice can be heard saying, “This area must be evacuated now. If you can hear this message, evacuate now.” After the message, there’s the sound of an explosion and the screen goes white.
The vehicle exploded while the department’s Hazardous Devices Unit was en route to examine it, police said.
Three people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, officials said. Multiple buildings were damaged, some extensively, police said.
Authorities were sweeping the downtown area as a precaution, but Drake said they don’t feel there is any further danger.
Photos of the area shared by the Nashville Fire Department show smoke and flames in the downtown area, and windows broken out in nearby buildings.
These are pictures from 2nd Avenue south. Windows were broken out from explosion area to Broadway. Please AVOID this area! Media staging is at 2nd Avenue south and KVB. pic.twitter.com/tocdpHWFgj
— Nashville Fire Dept (@NashvilleFD) December 25, 2020
Nashville police also released a photo they say showed the RV arriving in the area at 1:22 a.m. and asked anyone with more information to contact the police department or the FBI.
Some people were taken to the Metro Nashville Police Department’s central precinct for questioning, department spokesman Don Aaron told the Associated Press, but declined to provide more details.
The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also investigating, police said. Law enforcement has closed down downtown streets as the investigation continues, and the Fire Department is asking the public to avoid the area.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper (D) called the explosion “unfortunate,” but noted that fewer people were in the typically heavily trafficked area because it was early Christmas morning.
“It’s unfortunate, but any other morning I think it would’ve been a much worse story to be sure because there were so few people out,” Cooper said at a press conference.
The explosion happened outside of an AT&T transmission building, according to the police. The company told the AP the blast interrupted service, but declined to say how widespread outages were.
Outages have been reported in middle Tennessee and Kentucky, according to the AP. Several police agencies also reported their 911 systems were down because of the outage, according to AP.
In a statement Friday evening, AT&T said it was “putting the full-force of our disaster recovery effort” into responding to the explosion and restoring service.
“Given the damage to our facility, it will take time to restore service. We have already rerouted significant traffic from this facility and are bringing in other equipment, including numerous portable cell sites to the area,” the company said in a statement on its website. “We’re grateful for the work of law enforcement as they investigate this event while enabling us to restore service for our customers.”
The Federal Aviation Authority temporarily halted flights out of the Nashville International Airport due to telecommunications issues related to the explosion, the airport said.
The airport originally said it hoped service would resume by 3 p.m. local time, but was still reporting issues as of 3:39 p.m. local time. By about 5:50 p.m. local time, most flights were resuming, the airport tweeted.
UPDATE: Most flights are resuming, but there may be some delays. Be sure to check with your airline for flight updates or at https://t.co/ZyVvOExQq5.
— Fly Nashville (@Fly_Nashville) December 25, 2020
Updated at 7:50 p.m.