National Transportation Safety Board says cut gas line will be 'central focus' of Youngstown building explosion investigation (2024)

NTSB investigators will be on the ground in Youngstown for one week. A preliminary report on the explosion will be released in approximately 30 days.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has launched its investigation into the fatal explosion at the Chase Bank building in downtown Youngstown.

With its team now on the ground in Youngstown, NTSB officials held a briefing on Thursday afternoon. While no exact cause for the explosion has been determined, investigators are focusing on an abandoned gas line in the basem*nt of the building that had been cut, yet was found to still be pressurized with gas.

"Preliminary information suggests that work crews were present in the basem*nt of the building for the purpose of clearing out old utility infrastructure," explained NTSB board member Tom Chapman. "A possible third-party cut to the pressurized service line is a central focus of our investigation to determine the cause of the gas release and subsequent explosion."

Chapman added that he did not believe there was anything suspicious about the cut line.

NTSB investigators will be in Youngstown for approximately one week. A preliminary report from the agency will come in approximately 30 days, with a final report to be released in 12 to 24 months.

"This is the first steps into a lengthy investigative process," he added. "The damage to the building is devastating."

Anyone with potential information to provide is asked to email as soon as possible. You can watch Thursday's entire NTSB briefing in the player below:

One person was killed and seven people hospitalized as a result of the explosion that took place at around 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday. The blast shook the downtown Youngstown area as bricks, glass and other debris littered the sidewalk.

The body of 27-year-old Chase Bank employee Akil Drake was recovered in the early morning hours of Wednesday. "With respect, we got him out because we were not going to leave until we found him," Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley told reporters during a news conference. "We were going to be there as long as it took. We found him so his family can have closure."

Finley and other Youngstown city officials said during Wednesday's briefing that the investigation into the explosion would be handled by the State Fire Marshal's Office, but added that there were federal agencies also taking part in the probe.

Police and the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency initially said the incident was a natural gas explosion, but Finley later said it was too early to say.

Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown gave an update to reporters outside the Chase Bank building on Wednesday evening.

"The State Fire Marshal, as well as Dominion (Enbridge Gas Ohio), said they've concluded their part of the investigation and now they're waiting for NTSB to come in tomorrow to give us further direction and guidance on what needs to happen before this building moves any further," he said.

Brown added that no findings have been revealed from the investigation by the fire marshal and gas company.

The NTSB announced Wednesday that it would be "launching pipeline and hazardous materials investigators to investigate Tuesday's natural gas explosion in downtown Youngstown." The agency says it is leading the investigation because pipelines are considered a mode of transportation.

Following the NTSB's announcement, Enbridge Gas Ohio released the following statement:

"Our hearts go out to the injured and the families of those who have been impacted, especially to the Drake family who lost a loved one. Our thoughts are with them at this time.

"The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be taking the lead in this investigation and Enbridge Gas Ohio likely will be asked to assist as a party to the investigation. Federal regulations prohibit us from commenting on the investigation.

"We would like to thank the City of Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, Fire Chief Barry Finley, and all first responders for their quick action and leadership in responding to this event.

"Our primary concern will continue to be the safety and well-being of everyone involved."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Previous Reporting:

  • 'This tragedy hit our community pretty hard': Youngstown officials provide update following deadly explosion at Chase Bank building
  • Updates: 1 found dead after explosion at Chase Bank building in Youngstown

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National Transportation Safety Board says cut gas line will be 'central focus' of Youngstown building explosion investigation (2024)
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