Seaside Park beachfront in New Jersey has been evacuated after a pipe bomb explosion occurred just moments before a military charity race was set to begin. The charity run was cancelled after a garbage can exploded not even a mile from the start line.
According to News 12, the race, which was set to start at 9:35 a.m., was delayed due to a more than expected amount of participation and last minute registrations. Fortunately, since the race was held up, there was nobody in the area of the explosion and no injuries were reported.
If the race would have started on time as expected, the runners would have been running by the garbage can at the time it exploded. A fun race for youth had just ended shortly before the explosion occurred.
Although it is too soon to say whether or not terrorist or criminal motives were behind the explosion, Della Fave, a spokesperson for the prosecutor agrees that it appears that the attack was targeted towards military members and their families, App reports.
“When it went off, there was nobody in the area. You would have to assume that at a military-type event, the U.S. Marines, a device is placed along the route of a charity event, it would be hard to think it would be anything else.”
Approximately 1,600 runners were scheduled to run during 5K Semper Five race and nearly 3,000 people were in the area during the explosion.
A witness of the explosion told News 12 that he heard the loud bang and noticed white smoke rising nearly 35 feet in the air.
An abandoned backpack was located in the area where the race was set to start, but it was later determined to be unrelated to the incident and was claimed by a high-school student.
The FBI has taken over the investigation and the seafood festival has since been canceled. Amusement rides and the beach in Seaside Heights remain open after the K-9 and police units swept the area.
Della Fave revealed that multiple explosive devices were inside the garbage can, as many as three, but only one detonated. If all three would have detonated at the same time, a much larger explosion would have occurred.
Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino confronted Gov. Chris Christie on the incident.
“Working with the FBI and ATF, we are taking every step to ensure the safety of the public and to determine who was responsible for this explosion, which occurred at a time when runners in this charity race could have been in harm’s way. We are grateful that nobody was injured, but this is a serious act of violence against the people of New Jersey. We will not rest until we find the person or persons responsible.”
Cathy Howath, 50, was signed up to run in the race.
“They kept making the announcement, ‘There’s an unclaimed, blue backpack by the News 12 tent and the radio station tent. If this is your backpack please come and claim it.’ It was repeatedly.”
Howath said that it was a “blessing in disguise” that the race was postponed.
APP has streamed a live press conference discussing this possible terrorist attack on Asbury Park Press Facebook page and will also be live on MSNBC. This story is still developing and updates will be posted as they become available.
Law enforcement officials are conducting interviews and still collecting evidence. They urge anyone who knows anything about this crime to contact (800) 225-5324 and select option one.
People are urged to stay out of the area where the FBI is conducting their investigation.
[Featured Image by Mark Makela/Getty Images]