A building explosion took place in a shopping mall in downtown Harrisonburg, Virginia, on October 1



Investigators Sunday chased the trail of a thunderous explosion that leveled a strip mall, injured five people and rattled residents for miles on a peaceful morning in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

The blast on Saturday flowed through a mall in downtown Harrisonburg, where businesses included a family-owned halal market, a musical instrument store and a studio, and a nail salon and barber shop.

Nearby James Madison University said in a Facebook post that three students from the school’s Army ROTC program who had participated in a 10-mile race were among the injured. The blast occurred about 30 yards from the start and finish line to the race, the school said.

Damon Boyd, who was working on construction nearby when the explosion broke out, told the Daily-News Record that he and his crew hurried to the site. A wounded man on the ground “began to think he was dead,” Boyd said. “It looked like something was hitting him in the face.”

Although government Ralph Northam tweeted that state emergency personnel had been deployed in the area after what he called a gas explosion, Harrisonburg Fire Chief Matt Tobia said the cause was under investigation.

City spokesman Michael Parks, who said the probe is likely to take several days, said there is no indication of bad play.

Investigation underway: Investigation underway after explosion injures several people in a shopping mall in Virginia

One of the injured JMU students was admitted to the hospital but was expected to be released quickly, the university said. Two other students were treated on the spot and released, the school said.

The university said the other two wounded were not affiliated with the JMU. City officials said the other two had flown to the University of Virginia Medical Center in serious condition and were “now stable.”

Pat Doorenbos, who lives about half a mile away, said her house was “literally shaking” and she feared a plane had crashed or a tanker had exploded on Interstate 81.

“I grew up on a farm and thought to myself ‘It sounds like gas or oil.’ There could be nothing so big that would shake my house, ”she told the Daily News-Record.

JMU sophomore Matthew Jenkins recalled a shot early Saturday morning.

“I just heard a loud bang and I was thrown into my wall,” Jenkins told WTVR. “My head hit the wall and I thought something had crashed into the building, so I looked outside and … I saw a big cloud of fungus.”

The strip mall was a “total loss,” Parks said, and damage to other structures was reported.

Harrisonburg, a city of 50,000, has breathtaking mountain views and a lively art scene and is a hub for the outdoors. In addition to JMU, it is home to Eastern Mennonite University,

Contribution: Associated Press

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