UPDATED: Lower floors of downtown skyscraper explode; 7 people injured, 2 missing | News, sports, jobs


Staff Photo / Ed Runyan Youngstown firefighters can be seen sifting through debris Tuesday afternoon after an explosion at the Realty Tower building at the corner of Market and East Federal streets downtown. The cause is still under investigation, Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley said. However, it is believed to have been caused by a gas leak,

YOUNGSTOWN – A large explosion at the Realty Tower building at the corner of Market and East Federal streets in downtown injured seven people, two others were missing and called into question the structural integrity of the building, city officials said on Tuesday night.

“So far, there are no fatalities,” Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley said, but no man or woman has been found. He believes one is a Chase Bank employee. The first floor of the building houses a Chase Bank branch.

Rumors throughout the day were that a natural gas explosion caused the 2:45 pm explosion that could be felt in other buildings downtown. But Finley told a crowd of media on the steps of the Mahoning County Courthouse around 6:30 p.m. that he still doesn’t know what caused the explosion.

“We know Dominion (Energy) is here reviewing their lines,” he said of the natural gas company. “We have no idea what caused the explosion. “We know there was an explosion and we know it caused a lot of damage to the bottom of the building.”

He said Dominion “is doing an evaluation of all of their equipment, but right now the only thing I know for sure is that there was an explosion.”

Charles Shasho, Youngstown’s deputy director of public works, said he can see some fascia beams that may have lost structural integrity, but it will be necessary for the building owners to hire engineers to take a closer look to see how bad the damage is. building.

Finley said that when firefighters arrived, “they went into the building and got everyone out they could. (Emergency Medical Services) stood by, and anyone who was hurt or injured was taken to the hospital by EMS, and my firefighters went floor by floor, room by room, elevator by elevator, space by space, clearing that building to “ensure that no one else was in the building and no one else was injured.”

People inside the Realty Tower building and the adjacent International Towers building were evacuated, but International Towers residents were allowed to return to the building around 6:30 p.m.

Robin Lees, director of the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency, handled the evacuation portion of the accident. The American Red Cross provided water and snacks to the residents of International Towers with the help of some volunteers who live in the building, which houses a large number of disabled people.

As for Realty Towers, no one will enter that 13-story building again for now, Finley said. The building has condominiums and apartments on the upper floors.

Shortly after the explosion, Jeff Magada, executive director of Flying HIGH Inc., a nonprofit organization, said he stood up from his desk in a skyscraper across Federal Plaza from Realty Towers and saw a cloud of dust rising.

Surveillance video from across East Federal Street from the Realty Tower, 47 Federal Plaza Central, showed a powerful explosion that threw objects onto the street.

But it also blew out the windows of the building on the other side of Federal Street, Magada said.

He and a man trained in emergency services went to the intersection where the explosion occurred and were going to head to the building to help, but first responders arrived at that moment, Magada said.

Magada said he heard a hissing noise coming from the building and smelled natural gas.

He could see firefighters leading a man out of the building who was looking for an exit and another person who appeared to have entered the basement of the building. He saw a huge chunk of concrete raised in the sidewalk area on East Federal Street next to the building.

The entire first floor on the Federal Plaza side and the East Federal side suffered extraordinary damage, the worst apparently near the northeast corner of the building, where concrete lifted.

Firefighters focused much of their attention on that area in the minutes after their arrival, lifting two people from the first-floor destruction on stretchers.

Another man was sitting at the foot of a monument in Federal Plaza, in front of the building that exploded, with blood and dust on his face and people stopping to offer him water.

HISTORY OF THE BUILDING

Chase moved in May 2021 to Realty Tower as it reduced its presence downtown.

Before the relocation, Chase had been for several years at 6 W. Federal St., then known as the Chase Building, on three floors, occupying 13,523 square feet.

The Realty location is 3,550 square feet in size and was home to Starting Lineup Barber Shop for five years.

Huntington Bank reduced its presence in downtown Youngstown shortly after Chase’s decision.

The 104-year-old Realty Tower was the first building in the city center to offer luxury apartments and opened in 2009. The building has 23 apartments.

Management Parking LLC, a sister company of the Frangos Group, which developed the building, sold the property in June 2018 for $2 million to Yo Properties 47 LLC.

Yo Properties owns several downtown locations on Market, North Hazel, West Commerce, East Federal and East Boardman streets. All were purchased in the last six years.

Frangos bought his first property in Youngstown in 1998. In the early 2000s, he was considered the largest property owner downtown.

Since then, the company has sold a dozen buildings downtown, including the Stambaugh Building, Erie Terminal Place, the Wick Building and the former Chase Building.



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