On October 1
On Sunday, investigators searched for clues behind a thunderous explosion that leveled a shopping mall, injured five people and shook residents for miles on a quiet morning in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
Saturday’s blast hit a shopping mall in downtown Harrisonburg, where activities included a family-owned halal market, a musical instrument shop and recording studio, a beauty salon, and a barber shop.
Nearby James Madison University said in a Facebook post that three students from the school’s Army ROTC program who participated in a 10-mile race were among the injured. The blast occurred about 30 meters from the start and finish line of the race, the school said.
Damon Boyd, who was working on construction nearby when the blast went off, told the Daily-News Record that he and his crew rushed to the scene. An injured man on the ground “started screaming that he is dying,” Boyd said. “It looked like something hit him in the face.”
Although Governor Ralph Northam tweeted that state emergency personnel had been deployed to the area following what he called a gas explosion, Harrisonburg Fire Chief Matt Tobia said the lawsuit was under investigation.
City spokesman Michael Parks, who said the investigation is likely to take several days, said there were no indications of foul play.
A firefighter walks through the burning rubble of a shopping mall after an explosion in Harrisonburg, Virginia on Oct.17, 2020. (Photo: Ian Munro, Daily New-Record, via AP)
Ongoing investigations: Investigation underway after the blast injured several people at a Virginia shopping mall
One of the injured JMU students was hospitalized but should have been quickly released, the university said. Two other students were treated on the spot and released, the school said.
The university said the other two injured people were not affiliated with JMU. City officials said the other two had been flown to the University of Virginia Medical Center in serious condition and were “now stable.”
Pat Doorenbos, who lives about half a mile away, said his home “was literally shaking” and feared that a plane had crashed or a tanker had exploded on Interstate 81.
“I grew up on a farm and thought to myself ‘It looks like gas or oil.’ There couldn’t be anything so big that would shake my house,” she told the Daily News-Record.
JMU’s sophomore Matthew Jenkins recalled a shock early Saturday morning.
“I just heard a loud bang and was hit against the wall,” Jenkins told WTVR. “My head hit the wall and I thought something had crashed into the building, so I looked out and … I saw a big mushroom cloud.”
The mall was a “total loss,” Parks said, and damage to other facilities was reported.
Harrisonburg, a city of 50,000, boasts stunning mountain views and a vibrant arts scene and is a hub for outdoor recreation. In addition to JMU, it hosts Eastern Mennonite University,
Contributing: The Associated Press
Read or share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/10/18/explosion-virginia-shopping-center-authorities-seek-clues/3703275001/