Christmas morning explosion in Nashville deemed ‘intentional act’

Ryman Auditorium
The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)

(The Center Square) – A warning blared from a parked RV in downtown Nashville for 15 minutes before it exploded around 6:30 a.m. Friday, injuring three people and downing 911 communications for miles in what authorities call an “intentional act.”

Nashville Police officers responded to a call of shots fired at 166 Second Avenue North at 5:30 a.m. Christmas morning. They found a parked RV blasting an audio warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes.

“Evacuate now. There is a bomb. A bomb is in this vehicle and will explode,” a recording of a woman’s voice coming from the RV blared to a mostly empty street.

Officers began evacuating nearby buildings immediately, making announcements and knocking on doors, Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake said at a news conference Friday.

Nashville PD’s Hazardous Devices Unit was en route when the RV exploded at 6:30 a.m.

The blast tore through Second Avenue North, blowing out windows, scorching the street and nearby trees and causing extensive damage to surrounding buildings.

The explosion could be felt near the Nashville International Airport more than 15 miles away.

The FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are leading an investigation into the explosion alongside the Nashville Police Department. Authorities conducted a sweep of the downtown area to ensure there was no additional threat at noon Friday.

“We don’t feel there’s any concern in the downtown area of anything else right now,” Drake said. “But we are doing it as a precaution, just to search with our bomb dogs.”

Three people were transported to the hospital with minor injuries, according to ATF Special Agent In Charge Mickey French, but no deaths or additional casualties were known at the time of publication.

The RV was parked near an AT&T transmission building and blocks away from the 33-floor AT&T tower.

AT&T service in Nashville was down Friday, causing interruptions in 911 communications in Davidson County, as well as Williamson, Rutherford, Sumner, Putnam, Dickson, Montgomery, Bartlett and Coffee counties.

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

The FAA temporarily halted flights out of Nashville international Airport because of telecommunications issues associated with the blast.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said the president had been briefed on the explosion and would continue to receive regular updates. Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen was briefed on the situation Friday morning.

Gov. Bill Lee said that the state will supply any resources to determine what happened and who was responsible.

“Please join [First Lady Maria Lee] and me in praying for those who were injured and we thank all of our first responders who acted so quickly this morning,” Lee said in a tweet Friday.

The Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation has announced it will contribute $10,000 toward a reward in the case.

“We will find out who did this,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt Foster said at a Friday news conference. “This is our city, too. We’re putting everything we have into finding who was responsible for what happened here today.”

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