Christmas Day Blast Rocks Downtown Nashville, Damages Dozens of Buildings

Christmas Day Blast Rocks Downtown Nashville, Damages Dozens of Buildings

2020-12-28 17:58:43
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Federal agents spent the weekend investigating an explosion that shook downtown Nashville, while investigators searched hundreds of tips and pipes in the explosion that damaged dozens of buildings on Christmas morning.

More than 48 hours after the explosion, a motive remained elusive as investigators worked around the clock to resolve unanswered questions about a recreational vehicle that blew up on a largely deserted street on a sleepy holiday morning after a recorded warning advised people nearby to evacuate.

The attack, which damaged an AT&T building, continued to wreak havoc on cell phone service and police and hospital communications in several Southern states as the company worked to restore the service.

Investigators from multiple federal and local law enforcement agencies came to the Antioch, suburban Nashville home on Saturday after receiving information relevant to the investigation, said Jason Pack, FBI special agent.

At the end of Sunday, officials named 63-year-old Anthony Quinn Warner as the man behind the mysterious explosion in which he was killed, but the motive has remained elusive. Warner was killed in the explosion. Beyond that, the only known victims were three injured.

Federal agents could be seen looking around Warner's property, ransacking the house and backyard. A Google Maps image taken in May 2019 showed a similar recreational vehicle parked in the backyard; an AP reporter at the scene did not see the vehicle in the late afternoon of Saturday.

Officials also said no additional explosives have been found – indicating there is no active threat to the area. Researchers have received about 500 tips and leads.

"It just takes us some time," Douglas Korneski, the special agent in charge of the FBI's field office in Memphis, said at a Saturday afternoon press conference. “Our research team is turning every stone” to understand who did this and why.

The damage to the infrastructure, meanwhile, was broadly palpable as an AT&T headquarters was hit by the explosion. Police emergency systems in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama, as well as Nashville's COVID-19 hotline and a handful of hospital systems, remained out of service.

The building contained a telephone exchange with network equipment in it – but the company has refused to say exactly how many people have been affected.

Asked if the AT&T building could have been a potential target, Korneski said, "We're looking at every possible motive that could be involved."

Investigators closed the heart of downtown Nashville's tourist scene – an area filled with honky-tonks, restaurants, and shops – as they shuffled through broken glass and damaged buildings to learn about the explosion.

Mayor John Cooper has enforced a downtown curfew until Sunday through an executive order restricting public access. More than 40 buildings were affected.

AT&T said on Sunday that it was a diversion to other facilities while the company worked on the restoration of the badly damaged building. The company said in a statement that it was raising funds to help restore affected voice and data services and expects to have 24 additional trailers of disaster recovery equipment on the site by the end of the day.

Restoration efforts faced several challenges, including a fire that forced their teams to work with safety and fabricators and drill access holes in the building to reconnect power.

Ray Neville, president of technology at T-Mobile, said on Twitter Saturday that service outages hit Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Birmingham and Atlanta. "We continue to see service outages in these areas … The repairs are ongoing around the clock and we will keep you updated on progress," he said.

Emergency workers work near the site of an explosion in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, Friday, December 25, 2020. Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud bang was heard early Christmas morning. (AP Photo / Mark Humphrey)

The outage had briefly grounded flights at Nashville International Airport, but service continued from Saturday. The Federal Aviation Administration has since issued a temporary flight restriction around the airport, requiring pilots to follow strict procedures until December 30.

According to Metro Nashville police chief John Drake, police officers responded Friday to a report of shots fired when they encountered the RV with a recorded warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes. Police evacuated nearby buildings and called in the bomber. The camper exploded shortly afterwards.

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Associated Press photographer Mark Humphrey in Nashville and writer John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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