NEW VIDEO TAKEN MINUTES AFTER POLICE ARRIVED ON SCENE (warning: trucks and generators in the area are VERY loud).
Bomb Squad Investigation Scene on Union Avenue in New Rochelle
MAJOR UPDATENew Rochelle Police Department calls incident "accidental spontaneous combustion" but does not rule out foul play.
A white Jeep Grand Cherokee exploded on the corner of Union Avenue and Walnut Street shortly after 11 AM last night (more photos below). The vehicle was completely destroyed. The roof was blown away and the doors ripped off their hinges. Area residents reported hearing a loud explosion, rattling windows and shaking houses. One witness reported arriving at the scene as the car was engulfed in flames.
The call initially came in as "car fire" but first responders on the scene quickly determine some sort of explosion had occurred, igniting the fire. A man who had been entering the car at the time of the explosion was taken to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.
Westchester County Bomb Squad officers were on the scene along with the New Rochelle Police Department and New Rochelle Fire Department. Police have confirmed is was an explosive device that caused the damage. Police investigators are expected to be on the scene throughout the day.
UPDATE: The vehicle was removed from the scene for further investigation. Shortly after, every local TV news station arrived at the scene.
UPDATE: Man was from Eastchester. He was at the Italian-American Social Club on the corner of Union Avenue and Walnut Street.
UPDATE: The Journal News is reporting that a street camera captured some of the Jeep's burning and the rescue. Also, that the victim had been arrested by New Rochelle police this month and accused of scratching another man's vehicle after a dispute, but Schaller said that incident did not appear to have anything to do with the explosion.
WCBS-TV 2 Reporting: "Federal investigators and ATF officials were on the scene analyzing evidence. No incendiary device was found at the scene, thus eliminating initial suspicion of a bomb."
Cell phone video of Westchester County Bomb Squad inspecting vehicle.
a street camera captured some of the Jeep's burning and the rescue.
The victim had been arrested by New Rochelle police this month and accused of scratching another man's vehicle after a dispute, but Schaller said that incident did not appear to have anything to do with the explosion.
UPDATE: New Rochelle Police Press Conference
New Rochelle Police held a news conference at 11:30 AM, about 12 hours after the incident, to deny that explosion was the results of a "car bomb. On hand were Police Commissioner Carroll, NRPD Spokesman Captain Schaller, and Lt. Hearle who is in charge of the investigation. Also, on hand but not commenting was City Manager Chuck Strome.
Carroll began by saying that police now believe the explosion was caused by fumes from open container of gasoline inside vehicle. There was much eye-rolling from the assembled members of the media. Schaller said this has happened before. Carroll added that gasoline has a low combustion point. No one buy ing it.
A number of questions about motive and fishing around for links to organized crime. In response to questions form the media, NRPD officials said there were no known prior threats, that the victim was 70 years old, he was at the social club at 111 Union Avenue for three hours, his car was locked, passersby pulled the victim from the vehicle. As to what happened when the man got in the car, police admitted that the victim was not providing much information to investigators. Pressed on the source of the fumes, Hearle said the container recovered from the scene was a melted glob of plastic, that it smelled like gasoline but that NRPD was awaiting chemical analysis.
Click here to download an mp3 audio file of the "Car Bomb" Press Conference.