A recreational vehicle exploded in downtown Nashville at dawn on Christmas Day, injuring three people, in what police described as an “intentional act.”
A recording from the vehicle blared a message that a bomb was to detonate in 15 minutes shortly before the explosion took place.
Police say they were responding to a report of shots fired in the area when they spotted the vehicle and heard the recording. Officers evacuated nearby buildings and called in the bomb squad, which was on its way to the scene when the explosion took place.
Metro Nashville Police Department spokesman Don Aaron said three people were taken to area hospitals for injuries from the explosion, although none were in critical condition. Authorities say they do not know if anyone was in the recreational vehicle when it exploded.
During a news conference Friday afternoon, Nashville Police Chief John Drake told reporters that investigators had found "tissue" near the site that "could be" human remains. However, no fatalities had been confirmed as of Friday afternoon, the Nashville Tennessean reported.
The blast took place in a downtown tourist area of Nashville, the state capital of Tennessee, and severely damaged several buildings. Most of the bars, restaurants and other retail establishments on the tree-lined street were closed in the early hours of Christmas morning.
An AT&T facility was among the buildings affected and the company said some service was interrupted. Police agencies said the emergency 911 call system was down in several surrounding cities because of the outage.
The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights out of the Nashville airport because of telecommunications issues associated with the explosion.
Police said they did not know if the communication outages were a planned outcome of the explosion or if they were coincidental. They have not yet indicated a possible motive or the target of the blast.
An FBI spokesman said the agency will lead the investigation into the blast. The FBI is the primary law enforcement agency charged with investigating federal crimes, including explosives violations as well as acts of terrorism.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper has issued state of emergency for the area affected by the explosion, along with a curfew.
A White House spokesman said Donald Trump, who is spending the Christmas holiday in Florida, has been briefed on the explosion and will continue to receive regular updates.
“The president is grateful for the incredible first responders and praying for those who were injured,” his spokesman said.
Transition officials say President-elect Joe Biden has also been briefed on the blast.
“The president-elect and [first lady] Dr. [Jill] Biden thank all the first responders working today in response to the incident, and wish those who were injured a speedy recovery,” the transition team said in a statement.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said on Twitter that the state would provide the resources necessary “to determine what happened and who was responsible.” He called on people to pray for those who were injured in the blast.