NEW YORK, Sept. 18 (UPI) — An explosion that rocked New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood Saturday night injuring 29 was intentional, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters. A second suspicious device was found near the scene.
Police are searching for what caused the explosion that sent diners and others pouring in to the streets, CNN reported.
Investigators say it is likely the blast at 23rd Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan about 8:30 p.m. Saturday was caused by a device left in or near a Dumpster. The second device, found four blocks from the crowded sidewalk, was a pressure cooker with dark wiring connected to a cell phone with silver duct tape.
“Whatever the cause, New Yorkers will not be intimidated,” de Blasio said of the blast that came just days after the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that rocked the city in 2001, the New York Times reported.
New York Police Department Chief of Special Operations Harry J. Wedin tweeted for people to avoid the area.
The FBI, Homeland Security and hundreds of other law enforcement officials were on the scene.
Police cut off some streets to traffic and mass transit as they continued to search for any other possible explosive devices in to early Sunday morning. Using flashlights, trained dogs and robots, they scoured the area, even calling in a heavy weapons unit for assistance.
New York City’s mayor said officials have not found any specific connection between the Saturday night blast and an earlier incident in New Jersey where an explosion occurred on the route of a Marine Corps charity run.
David Martinez and Brenda Abero, who were among the injured and taken to New York’s Bellevue Hospital, both said they felt lucky to be alive.
Martinez said he and Abero, who is pregnant, were driving through Chelsea when the explosion lifted their car off the ground, damaging its left side.
“I was driving a car and next thing you know I felt an explosion,” Martinez said. “I just blacked out, next thing I know I’m in an ambulance.” He sustained injuries to his head and leg and said he felt “a little traumatized. Thought I was close to not seeing my son again, that was the scariest part.”
Abero’s baby was not injured in the incident.
Armed guards checked each ambulance bringing the injured to area hospitals.
In the aftermath of the explosion, police viewed video that showed shattered windows and terrified people running and ducking.
Danilo Gabrielli, 50, of Chelsea, said the explosion was massive. “It shook the entire apartment building,” he said. He and others ran out to see what had happened: “People from my building and I were literally the first people there.” He said the scene was one of chaos.
“We smelled something, like an intense sulfur smell, and saw smoke coming out of this building. I saw pieces of metal — not large, but not small either. A few friends of mine saw glass there.” He said the entire neighborhood was scared.
“It’s a real quiet neighborhood, not like the center of the city or the Wall Street area. It’s tiny bars, where you go to grab a drink, grab a bite to eat, watch a film. We were worried.”
Another eyewitness said he was having dinner when the explosion occurred.
“[I] felt a loud explosion and I felt like a lightning bolt struck the building. It, like, shook the ground,” he told CNN affiliate NY1. “Everybody ran out of the restaurant into the street. The whole city was in the street.”
Some, on social media, said the sound of the explosion was heard as far away as Hoboken, N.J., which is across the Hudson River from Chelsea, an area filled with small bars and restaurants and known as an area inclusive of the gay community.
Police are continuing to search for witnesses and other video that may show how the event went down.