Youngstown downtown rocked by gas explosion: Injuries and search for missing persons underway

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A gas explosion in downtown Youngstown, Ohio, caused significant damage to a 13-story building on E Federal Street, housing a Chase Bank office, at approximately 2:45 pm local time on Tuesday, May 28. The incident left seven people injured, including one in critical condition, and resulted in two individuals being reported missing.

Details of the Explosion

The blast occurred near Central Square and led to an immediate appeal by police for the public to avoid the area. Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley confirmed the explosion was due to natural gas and mentioned ongoing investigations to determine the presence of a gas leak. “All I know for sure is that there was an explosion,” stated Finley during a press briefing.

Search and Rescue Efforts

Search efforts have been complicated by structural damages within the building, including a floor collapse into the basement, which subsequently flooded. Rescue teams have attempted to use a mini-drone to aid in locating the missing individuals—a man and a woman, with the man identified as a bank employee. However, the water and debris have hindered these efforts. “The floor is collapsed in on itself, there’s nothing to see, it’s full of water, so honestly, we don’t know if that person is down there or not,” Finley explained.

A gas explosion in downtown Youngstown has injured seven people and left two missing. Emergency crews are on the scene.

A gas explosion in downtown Youngstown has injured seven people and left two missing. Emergency crews are on the scene.

Community Response and Eyewitness Accounts

The explosion was captured on security cameras, showing windows shattering and debris flying across the street, enveloping the city block in thick smoke. Local residents reported a loud boom and the subsequent smell of gas. “I heard the boom, and I looked up and I could see dark smoke coming out of the side of the Chase Bank building… it was such a really strong, strong boom,” recounted Debora Flora, an executive director at Mahoning County Land Bank.

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Another resident, Justin Reynolds, described the immediate aftermath in the building’s lobby, where debris had blocked exits, complicating his escape with his pet. “There was kind of like a metal gate door that had been bowed in and the rubble from the lobby… the broken-up rock and marble had jammed itself so I was there with my cat in a carrier kind of trying to push the door open,” he said.

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The explosion underscores the critical need for stringent safety measures in urban infrastructure, particularly in older buildings potentially susceptible to gas leaks. The incident highlights the importance of emergency preparedness and the effectiveness of first responders in managing urban disasters.

As the community of Youngstown comes to terms with the scope of this disaster, the focus remains on the ongoing search and rescue operations, and the broader implications for city safety protocols. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the potential dangers associated with gas leaks and the need for vigilant maintenance and monitoring of city infrastructure.

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This incident not only brings to light the challenges in managing gas leak risks but also the community’s resilience in the face of such unexpected disasters.

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