Probe Underway in Manhattan Explosion That Left 29 People Injured

NEW YORK (AP/Hamodia) -
Crime scene investigators work Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, at the scene of Saturday's explosion in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Crime scene investigators work Sunday at the scene of Saturday’s explosion in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

An explosion rocked a crowded Manhattan neighborhood and injured 29 people, and a suspicious device discovered blocks away was safely removed early Sunday. Mayor Bill de Blasio ruled out any terror connections, but called the blast an “intentional act.”

“Tonight, New York City experienced a very bad incident,” de Blasio said at a news conference near the scene in Chelsea. “We have no credible and specific threat at this moment.”

De Blasio tried to calm any fears among nervous New Yorkers, saying the explosion had no terrorist connection and wasn’t related to a pipe bomb explosion earlier Saturday in New Jersey that forced the cancellation of a charity run.

“Now, I want to be clear whatever the cause, whatever the intention here, New Yorkers will not be intimidated,” the mayor said. “We are not going to let anyone change who we are or how we go about our lives. ”

De Blasio was joined at the press conference by New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill – who was just sworn in on Friday – and Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

“The exact nature and cause of this explosion has not yet been determined,” said O’Neill.

All authorities have determined at this point, said de Blasio, is that “this was an intentional act.” O’Neill said that the explosion was not caused by natural gas.

Nigro said that of the 29 people injured, one person is injured seriously – with a puncture wound – and 24 people have scrapes and abrasions from glass and metal.

It was unclear who was behind the blast and what motivated it.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that a second device that officers investigated four blocks from the scene appeared to be a pressure cooker attached to wiring and a cellphone. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation, said the device was found inside a plastic bag on West 27th Street. The device was removed with a robot and taken to a department firing range in the Bronx.

The law enforcement official also said that the explosion that rocked a bustling Chelsea neighborhood appeared to have come from a construction toolbox in front of a building. Photos from the scene show a twisted and crumpled black metal box.

The blast happened on West 23rd street, in front of a residence for the blind, near a major thoroughfare with many restaurants and a Trader Joe’s supermarket. Witnesses say the explosion at about 8:30 p.m. blew out the windows of businesses and scattered debris in the area. Officials said no evacuations were necessary.

Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said several people were taken to hospitals with injuries. One of the injured suffered a puncture wound that was considered serious. He said the other injuries were minor, described as scrapes and bruises.

Police tape cordons off the area around the mangled dumpster where the explosion is believed to ave occurred. (Neha Jain via Twitter/Handout via Reuters)
Police tape cordons off the area around the mangled dumpster where the explosion occurred. (Neha Jain via Twitter/Handout via Reuters)

While police investigated the second site, spokesman J. Peter Donald posted a warning to some residents to stay away from windows facing 27th Street.

A number of New York City subway routes were affected by the explosion, which rattled some New Yorkers and visitors on the heels of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

The FBI and Homeland Security officials, along with the ATF arson and explosive task force were also at the scene.

The White House said President Barack Obama has been apprised of the explosion in New York City and will be updated as additional information becomes available.

The reports of the blast came hours after a pipe bomb exploded in Seaside Park, New Jersey, shortly before thousands of runners participated in a charity 5K race to benefit Marines and sailors. The run was cancelled and no injuries were reported.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (L) and New York Police Department Commissioner James O'Neill at the press conference Saturday night.(Reuters/Stephanie Keith)
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (L) and New York Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill at the press conference Saturday night.(Reuters/Stephanie Keith)

Even before the explosion, New York was tightening security for the start of this week’s U.N. General Assembly session, which is expected to bring 135 world leaders and dozens of foreign government ministers to the city. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived Saturday, while President Obama is scheduled to head to the city on Monday.

This annual meeting – held more than two miles from the site of the explosion in Chelsea – is traditionally a challenging time for New York, as many roads are shut down and the heavy security leads to increased traffic.

Authorities are asking any eyewitnesses, or anyone with any video of or information about the blast, to please call 800-577-TIPS.

Updated Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 9:05 am