1 killed in explosion in eastern Ohio; victim identified

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Seven people were injured and one person was killed Tuesday after what may have been a natural gas explosion at a building in eastern Ohio, authorities said.

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The explosion at the Realty Tower at the corner of Market and East Federal streets in downtown Youngstown put the structural integrity of the building in question, The Vindicator reported. Of the seven people hospitalized, one was in critical condition, according to WFMJ-TV.

Victim identified

Update 3:55 p.m. EDT May 29: The victim was identified as Akil Drake, 27, Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley said during a news conference. He was an employee of the Chase bank branch and was found in the basement of the building at about 12:30 p.m. EDT, WKBN-TV reported.

Drake was a student at the Penn Hills School District in the Pittsburgh area, according to WFMJ-TV.

“Earlier today, the Penn Hills administration learned that one of our former students, Akil Drake, tragically lost his life in an explosion in Youngstown, Ohio,” school district officials said in a statement. “Akil was a 2015 Penn Hills graduate and a student athlete who excelled on the football field. The Penn Hills School District extends its deepest sympathies to Akil’s family as well as the other individuals impacted by this tragic explosion. Akil will be missed by us all.”

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

1 person killed

Update 8:01 a.m. EDT May 29: ABC News reported that one person was killed in Tuesday’s explosion. The cause of the blast is still being determined after it was first reported that a natural gas explosion. Officials are still trying to pinpoint the cause.

“All I know for sure is that there was an explosion,” Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley said in a news conference.

The person killed was a man, 27, and a Chase bank employee whose body was removed from the rubble overnight.

The woman who was reported missing was not at the scene of the explosion and was not admitted to a hospital, so officials don’t believe the woman was at the building when the explosion happened, WKBN reported.

— Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Officials with coroner’s office at scene of explosion

Update 11:56 p.m. EDT May 28: Officials with the Mahoning County coroner’s office arrived at the scene of the explosion in downtown Youngstown shortly after 11:30 p.m. EDT, WKBN-TV reported.

Original report: “As of now, there are no fatalities,” Youngstown fire Chief Barry Finley told The Vindicator. He said a man and a woman are still missing.

Finley said everyone else in the building has been located, WKBN-TV reported.

“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 told the television station. “When we get clearance to go into the building … until then, I will not put any of my firefighters down there to do a search for any reason right now.”

A Chase Bank branch occupies the first floor of the building, but the 13-story structure also includes numerous apartments, the television station reported.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency said there was a natural gas explosion and the situation is “fluid but under control.” The agency asked people to avoid the area until further notice.

Witnesses in the area said they heard a loud explosion at about 2:45 p.m. EDT, followed by smoke and the smell of gas, WKBN reported.

“I heard the boom, and I looked up and I could see dark smoke coming out of the side of the Chase Bank building,” Debora Flora, executive director of Mahoning County Land Bank who works downtown, told the television station. “But it was such a really strong, strong boom, you know, I blurted out, ‘Oh my God.’”

Residents in the building’s apartments were also shaken up by the explosion.

“When I got to the lobby, there was kind of like a metal gate door that had been bowed in, and the rubble from the lobby,” Justin Reynolds told WKBN. “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.”

It is unclear what caused the explosion, WFMJ reported. State fire marshals are leading the investigation, according to a statement from Enbridge Gas Ohio.

“Our thoughts are with those impacted by today’s incident in #Youngstown,” the company tweeted. “Enbridge crews are assisting emergency responders, area is secure, gas to surrounding block is off as a safety precaution.

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