Harrisonberg, Virginia – James Madison University student said he felt the force of the blast, which leveled a strip of mall and left five people, including three JMU students, injured Saturday morning near downtown Harrisonberg.
Matthew Jenkins, a sophomore at the university, said he was startled soon after he woke up.
“I just heard a loud bang and they threw me against the wall,” Jenkins recalls. “My head hit the wall and I thought something had crashed into the building, so I looked outside and … I saw a big mushroom cloud.”
He had just arrived at the site of an explosion that occurred early this morning in Harrisonberg. Now that’s what’s left! City leaders say five people have been injured, but all are in stable condition. @ CBS6 pic.twitter.com/mQwm6CfB1r
– Matthew Fultz CBS 6 (@matthewfultztv) October 17, 2020
Fire crews were sent around 8:30 a.m. for reports of an explosion along Miller Circle right next to South Main Street, according to Harrisonberg officials.
When firefighters arrived, they found smoke and flames coming from several businesses in the mall, as well as two victims outside the structure, Harrisonburg Fire Chief Matt Tobia said.
“There was a barber shop, there was a vape shop, there was a recording studio and there was a bakery,” said Harrisonburg Communications director Michael Parks.
Two people with serious injuries were taken to a UVA medical center. At the last inspection on Saturday night, they were in stable condition, according to city authorities.
The parks said it was not immediately clear whether the victims were related to any of the center’s businesses.
Fire crews also said three JMU students were injured.
“They happened to be here at the time and suffered minor injuries, probably from debris,” Park said.
The university said in a Facebook post that the three students from the school’s ROTC program took part in a 10-mile race if they were injured. The building in which the explosion took place was about 30 yards (27 meters) from the start and end of the race, the school said.
One of the students was hospitalized but is expected to be released quickly, JMU said. Two other students were treated at the scene and released, according to the publication.
The mall strip is a “complete loss,” according to Parks, and damage has been reported to other structures.
My team and I are closely monitoring the situation in Harrisonburg after a gas explosion this morning.
The first responders and firefighters are on site, and we have deployed state emergency personnel for additional support. Please avoid the area.
– Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) October 17, 2020
Although Governor Ralph Northum tweeted Saturday morning that state emergency personnel had been stationed in the area following his so-called gas explosion, Tobias said the cause was under investigation.
But officials said there were no indications of rough play.
“So it’s certainly unexpected,” Park said. happens elsewhere in the city. “