Chelsea Explosion: Bomber at Large, NYC Mayor Reluctant to Call Terrorism

September 18, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2018

NEW YORK—More than 12 hours after a bomb exploded in Chelsea, injuring 29 people, police are yet to apprehend anyone, nor are they clear on a motive. 

The explosion rocked the lively Manhattan thoroughfare of 23rd Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues at about 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 17. Witnesses described it as very loud and powerful. All 29 injured were released from hospital by noon Sunday.

Without a clear motive, police haven’t called the bombing an act of terrorism, and Mayor Bill de Blasio will follow law enforcement’s call, he said at a Sunday press conference.

Police recovered security footage showing the explosion, and are working to recover more footage and interview witnesses to determine who was at the explosion site prior to the explosion.

Meanwhile, the bomb squad is investigating a second device that was recovered four blocks from the explosion site and driven out of the area.

The suspicious device, recovered at 27th St. and 7th Ave., was a pressure cooker sealed with duct tape with a cable extending from it connected to a cell phone. It was discovered by two State Troopers searching 27th Street for secondary bombs after the explosion.

O’Neill wouldn’t say if the device was an actual bomb, saying the bomb squad is still investigating.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill said he is concerned that a bomber is at large in the city, but also expressed confidence in the ability of police to find the culprit or culprits.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the bombing an act of terrorism during Sunday press conference, but also said it doesn’t appear to be related to international terrorism, according to CNN.

Terrorism is defined as using violence or intimidation to achieve political, religious, or ideological goals.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (R) walks from the scene of an explosion on West 23rd street in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, in New York, on Sept. 18, 2016, after an incident that injured passers-by Saturday night. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (R) walks through the scene of an explosion on W. 23rd Street in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood in New York, Sept. 18, 2016, after 29 passersby were injured Saturday night. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

The NYPD as well as the State Police and National Guard boosted their presence in the city, the Mayor said.

Both federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are involved in the investigation.

Subways and PATH trains renewed operation, but the E, F, and M subway trains skip the 23rd Street station and 1 trains skip the 23rd and 28th street stops.

Street closures in New York City as of noon Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. (Courtesy NYPD)
Street closures in New York City as of noon Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. (Courtesy NYPD)

Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD tip line on: 1800-577 TIPS (8477).

Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab