The Boston Marathon was transformed into pandemonium Monday following deadly explosions near the competition’s finish line, according to law enforcement agencies, media reports and social networking sites jammed with updates from the scene as it unfolded.
The Boston Police Department confirmed two dead and 23 injured. The first two blasts about 50 yards apart occurred nearly simultaneously shortly before 3 p.m. and the third explosion occurred at the John F. Kennedy Library shortly before 4 p.m. Teams of emergency first responders ran into the fray while those injured lay on the ground amid smoke and debris as police told the public to stay away from the scene.
“Were not being definitive on this right now, but you can reach your own conclusions based upon what happened,” Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, who stopped short of calling the incidents an act of terrorism.
The cause of the explosions remains under investigation. Police communications confirmed two undetonated explosive devices discovered at the scene. Davis said it is unclear if the finish-line explosions were linked to the library explosion, but investigators are treating the cases as if they are related.
“There were two bombs that exploded near the finish line in today’s Boston Marathon,” The Boston Marathon posted on Twitter. “We are working with law enforcement to understand what exactly has happened.”
Witnesses, including some Long Islanders, described the chaos at the scene.
“I could hear them very loud from where I was,” Richard Brodsky of Atlantic Beach, whose wife, Jodi, finished two minutes ahead of the explosions, said in a Facebook post. “All I know is we were thrilled to get out of the city as ambulances and police cars were competing for the right of way. Nobody knew at the time what really happened, but almost immediately fire trucks were coming down the street and I understand they stopped the race, at least near the finish… What a horrible tragedy.”
Another runner who was in Manhattan during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks drew comparisons between the two attacks.
“I’m having a lot of trouble making phone calls,” Rob Zanella, a West Islip man was running the race with his nephew. “It’s a lot like the phone issues on 9/11.”
Friends of runners waited anxiously for news as communications froze. Until the explosions, they were able to track their progress via Twitter feeds on their running shoes. One woman was known to have crossed the finish line at 2:42 p.m., roughly eight minutes before the bombs went off. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful, as were attempts to reach her friend who was reportedly near the finish line watching her race. So their anxiety added to the uncertainty of spectators near and far.
Anthony Abbruscato, a 22-year-old from North Babylon, who was communicating from the scene with the Press via Facebook since cell phone lines were jammed, described it as “chaos.”
“We were just a block away from the finish line when we heard two loud explosions separated by a few seconds,” he said. “At first, no one knew what was happening, but shortly after we saw people running away in fear.
The third explosion took place while Abbruscato was talking with the Press.
“This is f—king crazy!” he said.
Abbruscato’s classmate, Max Brown, also relayed the scene to the Press through Facebook:
“I can’t believe this happened,” he said. “I’m just praying for those who were injured, and that all my friends are okay. Cell service is down in the city so we can’t even call one another. Luckily we can text each other.”
The New York Police Department told Reuters that it would be beefing up security around the city in response to the blasts.
The Boston Marathon is the longest-running in the nation, 26.2 miles in length and 27,000 participants.
The New York Post is reporting the police have a suspect in custody, but Boston police have denied that report.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed New York State agencies, including the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, State Police, the MTA and the Port Authority, “to be on a heightened state of alert.”