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Explosion in New York Injures 50

Aired April 25, 2002 - 12:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Back up a little bit right now and let's you know what we are hearing right now through fire department officials. They are indicating that this was not foul play, that report coming in about 20 minutes ago. And based on the clock, it appears about an hour and three minutes ago at 11:29 a.m. Eastern time, some sort of explosion did take place in this part of Chelsea.

The early report said this was at the Apex Technical School. But the word we are getting right now is that the explosion did not take place in that building, but rather in the building next door. We will try and sort all of that out as our coverage continues here.

But, right now, let's bring you up to date again on what we are hearing there from Chelsea. And the explosion did do damage to that eight-story building, a technical school in Manhattan, injured between 40 to 50 people, many of whom you can see in this videotape. Police and fire officials say they do not regard the incident as suspicious -- once again reiterating: not foul play, the word we heard 20 minutes ago.

That blast did do damage to the Apex Technical School in the Chelsea neighborhood. Fire officials say the explosion was in the building next door. One said it was in the basement of that building. We do not know at this point, though, what is housed in that building or what sort of business takes place next to the technical school.

Streets in the area, around 19th Street and Sixth Avenue closed to traffic, closed on a number of different street corners, too, based on what our reporters are telling us right now. Several people, some with cuts visible, treated at the scene. You saw a number of those people in our videotape a short time ago -- others taken away by stretcher, by ambulance, off to St. Vincent's and another hospital in the area there.

Police, fire and rescue units responded to the blast, about 100, we are told, on the firefighters side -- some rubble visible on the street. We have talked about that, right on the left-hand side of that street corner there -- no fire, no smoke evident. I said 100 firefighters, now hearing 106 responded to the scene.

According to the Web site, Apex offers classes in automotive service, welding and repairs for refrigeration, air conditioning, and other appliances. Also on that Web site, they boast 40 years of training experience for the school itself and about 15,000 graduates over the past 40 years -- still working on the numbers right now.

Paul, give it to me again. What do you have? All right.

Fifty injured now -- we mentioned 40 to 50, now hearing 50 injured, three in serious condition. And they have been taken to nearby hospitals.

We were speaking with a student from the Apex Technical School by telephone a short time ago. And the student told us that he was on the seventh floor when the explosion occurred. He got out pretty easily, actually, went straight down the stairs, he said. But the windows in the area were completely blown out, given the explosion and the blast that soon followed.

You are watching it all live. It happened an hour and six minutes ago. And we continue to stay on top of it. Our reporters are on the scene. In fact, Brian Palmer will be back with us in a moment here. He is now in basement of the neighboring building, I am told. And once Brian can make contact with the officials there and get official word on the scene there, we will certainly bring Brian into our picture here.

But, again, Apex Technical School was the initial report -- now knowing that it's the building next door. What is there? What's housed there? What works there? We do not know.

All right, with us now -- and welcome to a former CNN colleague, Donna Kelley, by telephone, who is also near the scene in Manhattan.

Donna, I wish we could say hello on different terms, but, nonetheless, it will good to hear your voice again. What are you seeing and hearing there, Donna?

DONNA KELLEY, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: Let me know when you are there so I can go ahead and talk to you.

HEMMER: Yes, we're here, Donna. Hey, it's Bill Hemmer at the CNN Center.

Go ahead. What do you have?

KELLEY: OK, it's very noisy here, so I am just going to go ahead on the off chance. I think that you guys are with us and connected now.

HEMMER: Sure thing. You go for it.

KELLEY: We are on Seventh Avenue and 18th. We're up on the scene.

I've got John. He was an intern, in fact, for CNN before. He is here with us.

John, go ahead and tell us here -- you are on CNN. Go ahead and tell us what has happened, OK?

JOHN HEFFERNAN, EYEWITNESS: I was on -- hey, how are you doing?

I was on 20th Street, the rear of the building. The entrance to the building is on West 19th. And I was literally directly across the street when I heard the explosion. And it was two huge windows blew out. I did not know that at the time, but I looked up and glass was falling everywhere. So, it's funny how instinct take over. I just raced for the nearest cover I could find, which was an awning to the building right next door. And I got there in time and then the glass shattered all around me.

And then I looked up and smoke -- there was a girl that ran underneath there with me, too. And then smoke was billowing out of the windows. And people started rushing out of the building. It was just really scary.

KELLEY: Tell them about the blast and the explosion.

HEFFERNAN: Who am I talking to?

KELLEY: You're on CNN.

HEFFERNAN: Oh, all right.

So, basically, I have just been told to be a little more explicit. I didn't know what it was at first. But seeing the windows then blown out and the glass everywhere and the smoke billowing out, I then realized it was a little more serious than I had initially thought. Now, the sound was really, really loud. But then, when I saw the people evacuating, it got pretty scary and people were crying. And it was pretty insane.

KELLEY: How many people did you see (OFF-MIKE)

HEFFERNAN: At least -- pouring out the building, at least 200 people. It is not -- it is about a seven-story building. But, again, I was at the rear on the -- the building goes through from 19th to 20th. It takes up that whole block.

KELLEY: (OFF-MIKE)

HEFFERNAN: I did not see fire. I saw smoke. And the front of the building, from what I was told, though, debris came flying out onto the street as well. And I heard the reports are up to 50 people injured.

KELLEY: Did you see some of the injured?

HEFFERNAN: Yes, I saw people getting put into ambulances. One guy looked pretty bad, actually, right over here.

KELLEY: (OFF-MIKE) from the glass?

HEFFERNAN: He was on a stretcher. I could not see any visible injuries, other than he was kind of wrapped up. And I could tell that he was in bad shape.

The only other person I saw was a UPS guy who was cut on the arm.

KELLEY: (OFF-MIKE) you heard?

HEFFERNAN: I heard one really loud explosion, which blew out, again, the two windows that I was underneath and avoided the glass from that. And then they cordoned off all the streets and shut everything down, as you know.

QUESTION: And it was in Kaltech Industries building?

HEFFERNAN: I don't know the name of it, other than it was right in the middle of the block between Seventh and Eighth, Sixth and Seventh.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

HEFFERNAN: Yes, between Sixth and Seventh.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

HEFFERNAN: Well, where I was on 20th Street, he was on the south side of the street.

QUESTION: So, we're on the north...

HEFFERNAN: Right. We're on the north here on 19th, yes.

KELLEY: (OFF-MIKE)

HEFFERNAN: Yes, well, what was scary was, I have never been in a situation like that. And you look up. And the glass was white. It was sort of that painted glass. And there were huge shards of it like -- it was almost in slow motion, because one was a really piece that looked like it was sort of wallowing through the air. And I looked up and I was like: "Oh, my God. I've got to get out of here."

KELLEY: (OFF-MIKE)

HEFFERNAN: Well, yes, after the explosion, of course. Then there were --the person on the fourth floor above it fell below it, opened up the windows, and was looking up. And I don't not know if he was trapped or if he was all right or whatever. But then...

KELLEY: (OFF-MIKE)

HEFFERNAN: No, they were just kind of looking. And then people started pouring out of the building then. And then I saw a couple of other people hanging out of the windows. I didn't know if they were trapped or they were just looking. But the evacuation was pretty quick. People got out of the building pretty fast.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

HEFFERNAN: It's John Heffernan.

QUESTION: Spell that. HEFFERNAN: H-E-F-F-E-R-N-A-N.

QUESTION: First name J-O-H-N?

HEFFERNAN: Yes.

QUESTION: And what do you do?

HEFFERNAN: I am an actor in New York. I do voice-overs. And I do broadcasting as well, an announcer for the National Hockey League.

HEMMER: All right, an eyewitness on the scene there in the streets of Manhattan -- CNN's -- our former colleague, Donna Kelley, tracking him down. And Donna will be back in a moment here.

We've been talking with a number of our colleagues working the scene there on the streets of Manhattan by way of cell phone, as they continue to gather information.

The Associated Press is now saying, according to early indications to the police, they are saying in that neighboring building next to the Apex Technical School that a boiler explosion might be the cause, the early indication for the cause of that explosion that took place an hour and about 12 minutes ago. If that is the case, certainly that is probably going to quell a lot of rumors right now.

The fire department had said earlier that they did not consider the explosion suspicious. They said foul play was not in question right now. So, if the police report is indeed the case now, the boiler in the basement of the neighboring building may be the reason for this explosion that we are seeing right here, the aftermath, anyway, of that explosion.

Back to the street, Anderson Cooper working more information, joins us again.

Anderson, what do you have?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, let's see. The Office of Emergency Management just sent in a large bus, an interagency command center. It's become a lot more organized here on the corner of 19th Street and Seventh Avenue. I just talked to an official from the American Red Cross. He says they were on the scene helping out both relief workers and anybody who has been injured. He could not give me any confirmation of how many had been injured.

But the scene seems to be stabilizing, at least in terms of the response. A lot of the ambulances have gone. It seems just about all of the injured people have been taken away or are being dealt with on- site inside vehicles. As I said, it has just -- it has become much more orderly. It is starting to pour with rain. So, it has become less hectic.

A lot of the pedestrians have all been pushed back. People are sort of moving about their business. You don't want to say things are getting back to normal, but things do seem to be reducing here on the street.

HEMMER: Anderson, how much concern did you gather or were you able to measure from the people you've talked to down there? Now we're hearing that it might have been a boiler explosion in a building next door in the basement, which would appear to quash any possibility that something was suspicious in this explosion here.

COOPER: Yes, I have not heard anything directly. I have got to say, the atmosphere down here is not one of any sense of chaos. It's not one of -- this does seem to be kind of a routine.

Right now, they are breaking out some police barriers. The New York City police and emergency workers are used to this kind of thing. They do it all the time. And it does have that kind of routine atmosphere to it. There is certainly not any sense of chaos, pandemonium, anything like that. Certainly, in the initial -- when the information was sparse, when people were not really sure what was going on, there was that level of excitement to it.

But there is sort of a routine to it now. Even the press seems to be isolated in one area. And the tension level, I would say, is reducing.

HEMMER: OK, great. Anderson Cooper, thanks. We'll be back in touch -- Anderson Cooper on the streets of Manhattan by way of cell phone.

Let's recap now for our viewers what we have learned and what we continue to learn right now: 50 or more injured, three seriously, all taken to local hospitals there; foul play not suspected. Those are the headlines right now.

The facts as we sort through them: An explosion in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan did some damage to high-rise adjoining buildings housing a technical school, offices and residential units, again, I mentioned injuring at least 50, three seriously, according to police.

Authorities said plumbers were working on a boiler in the basement of the neighboring building. And that -- quote -- "may have had something to do with it." That's the early indication. It appears the explosion happened in the building housing the offices and residential units -- again, no foul play is suspected.

Students evacuated. We have heard a few on our air here, in fact -- evacuated from the eight-story Apex Technical School that adjoins the building where authorities say the explosion took place -- streets in the area, around 19th Street and Sixth Avenue, closed to traffic on a number of intersections -- dozens of people, some with cuts visible being treated at the scene, others taken on stretchers and gurneys. You saw videotape there about 15 minutes ago from the street scene.

Police and fire rescue units responded to the blast -- some rubble visible on the street, no fire, no smoke evident. About 106 firefighters responded to the scene. Apex, that school, by the way, offers classes in automotive services, in welding, in repairs for refrigeration, air conditioning and other appliances. In fact, one of the students we talked to was there for training in welding.

Some eyewitness accounts now, street-side in Manhattan, about what they heard and felt earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in the basement and this explosion just happened. I just ducked because all the glass was coming towards me. If I did not duck, I would have died. And I just tried to climb up, because it was so dark. The debris, the smoke and everybody was just down there. I just tried to escape.

QUESTION: What was coming towards you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flames, just fire and glass and everything. A whole bunch of machines are down there (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a whole bunch of machines with that.

QUESTION: What kind of building, what kind of facility is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's a sign company. We do signs and all that. But I don't know. I guess it was probably a chemical reaction or something, because you just saw a different kind of fire up there, you know.

QUESTION: You work there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I work there.

QUESTION: What were you doing at the time? What do you do at the company?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me? I do banners. I make banners on digital machines. And I was just helping a guy downstairs do some glass. We were doing some glass. And that's when I just saw the explosion. I just tried to get out.

QUESTION: How did you get out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just keep on feeling, because I know the whole place by heart now. So I just felt the stairs and walked up. And that's it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: That particular eyewitness, apparently, was in the neighboring building, now we know as the Kaltech sign building. What they do, we are not sure, but with are trying to research it and get you a answer quickly here.

Back to Anderson Cooper with more on the street -- Anderson.

COOPER: There's not really much new to report where I am. I haven't sort of been pushed to the side just yet. I just spotted some people who I think were in the building. I am going to over and try to talk with them. So, if you want to check back with me in a minute or two, that would be great.

HEMMER: Thanks. No problem. I was told you had more. But we'll be patient, not a problem here. We're not going very far.

Anderson Cooper is street-side. So is CNN's former CNN anchor, Donna Kelley. We heard from her and a few eyewitnesses about what they saw earlier today. Brian Palmer has gone to the building next to the technical center -- and Gary Baumgarten from CNN Radio also working the scene as well.

You can see the damage clearly in the streets in here, not only on the side of the street, but also the damage above it. I'm not quite sure from this perspective how much damage might be there, but it does look extensive, anyway, from the aerial picture here brought to us by WNYW.

It appears to be more orderly around the scene. The injured, the seriously injured have been taken away. The others who needed hospitalization also apparently have been away as well.

Another witness from the streets of Manhattan a short time ago -- let's listen now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: And where were you in the building?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The basement.

QUESTION: And how did you injure your eye?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: OK, clearly, we had a bit of difficulty there. Our apologies to our viewers. But we will try to get that sorted out here. A number of eyewitnesses, we do know that, a number of injured as well, at least 50, three seriously. And, as soon as we get more tape on that, we will certainly bring it to you.

Back to Brian Palmer, who I -- Brian, I don't know if you were able to get inside of the neighboring building or not. That was the report I was getting. What do you have for us?

BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, we have not been permitted to go inside the building.

We have been closer to the building. We also got a briefing from the police department spokesman, Michael O'Looney (ph), who tells us that three people have been seriously injured and 50 people, possibly 50 people injured less seriously.

We are actually standing next to (AUDIO GAP) standing next to the owner of the building, who says that there was work going on in the building. But he is not sure what actually happened, because he is being kept out (AUDIO GAP)

So, that is where we stand now -- back to you.

HEMMER: All right, Brian, thank you much. Brian Palmer there, keep working it. We will be back in touch, no question about that.

In the meantime, 50 or more injured, three seriously, after an explosion ripped through the downtown streets of Chelsea earlier today; 11:29 a.m. Eastern time, the explosion did occur, still trying to assess the amount of damage and also trying to assess how many people and how seriously their injuries might be -- at this point, though, no reports of any fatalities, no reports of any dead on the scene there. That is certainly good news.

The other bit of good news appears to be that foul play is not suspected: early indications, through police and other authorities on the scene, that a boiler being worked on in the basement of a neighboring building may be the culprit for the explosion and the extensive damage that we are seeing here as well.

We are going to join one of our affiliates in a moment here to pick up a little bit more information. But before we do that, back to Anderson Cooper again.

Anderson, I was premature earlier. What do you have now?

COOPER: I have just been talking to some people who said they were in the building. I'm going to hand the phone over to one of them, a man by the name of Jeff Rose (ph), who was in the building when the explosion went off. If you want to ask him some questions, you can. Since I'm on a cell phone, you'll have to ask him the questions, if that's all right.

Hold on a second. Here's Jeff.

JEFF ROSE, EYEWITNESS: Hello.

HEMMER: Yes, hi. It's Bill Hemmer at CNN Center.

What is your name? And tell us what you experienced today.

ROSE: Well, my name is Jeff Rose. And I work in the building at 123 West 19th Street.

I would say probably about, maybe a quarter after 11:00 this morning, it was calm as normal. We own three floors. We rent three floors in the building. And there was just a loud concussion, a loud thunderous noise that, as soon as the explosion was heard, it seemed like a hurricane came through the building, like the wind. And the ceiling started to drop.

I went underneath the desk. It seems like about maybe 10 seconds went by. Things seemed to calm. At that point, the building was just devastated. Everybody tried to make their way towards the front door. As far as the Kaltech employees, the ones in the basement seemed to be hurt the worst. There were about seven very seriously hurt men. HEMMER: Jeff, how familiar are you with Kaltech? And what do you they do there in Manhattan?

ROSE: We are an architectural signage firm.

There's talk -- if somebody asked me where the noise came from, I thought it came from above. There is talk that there was the boiler explosion, maybe off the basement. That's all hearsay.

HEMMER: Jeff, that is what the police are saying right now, but continue with your comment. And, also, we have been hearing from every eyewitness that windows were blown out. Was that your experience also?

ROSE: Well, at the street entrance, where we are, we don't have windows. Obviously, the basement doesn't have windows. The second floor does. But I really couldn't see much. But I know a lot of the brick just was like completely pushed out at 15 feet above ground level, where our second-story accounting offices are.

We don't do any manufacturing except from the basement of that building. It was just horrible. It just happened so fast.

HEMMER: Jeff, what kind of manufacturing would be done in that basement?

ROSE: Well, we do signage, cut letters, screen printing and banners, you pretty much name it. We do pretty much anything. We have been at that location for about 19 years.

HEMMER: How long have you been with the company, Jeff?

ROSE: Almost three years.

HEMMER: OK, in your three years experience, you indicated that the injured in the basement might suffer the most extensive injuries. Do you have any idea how many people might have been in the basement of that building at the time of the explosion?

ROSE: Well, normally, on a normal day, there's about 20 people downstairs in the basement, 30 people on the main entrance floor, and normally about six, seven, eight people in the accounting department, which is on the second level. Everybody is accounted for. But the ones that I saw on the street -- I was a combat medic. So, I was with them.

There is some scary -- some real scary injuries. Everybody seems to be accounted for.

HEMMER: Jeff, we are trying to get more information on your company. I don't mean to be rude here.

ROSE: That's OK.

HEMMER: But Kaltech, can you spell that, please?

ROSE: Kaltech Industries, K-A-L...

HEMMER: K-A-L, thank you. Keep going.

ROSE: T-E-C-H, not to be confused with the university.

HEMMER: Got it. Kaltech Industries, then, is that what you say?

ROSE: That's correct, Kaltech Industries Group Incorporated.

HEMMER: OK. Where are you right now, Jeff? Describe what you see around you.

ROSE: I'm at the corner of the 19th and Seventh. The building is located dead center on 19th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue. They obviously got us all out of there -- emergency management trucks, fire trucks, bomb squad.

HEMMER: Jeff, what was your initial reaction when you heard the explosion and the moments after?

ROSE: Oh, God, I thought I was going to die. I just couldn't understand what was going on. When you hear a noise like that -- and everything came down so quick, it seemed it was like a hurricane coming through the building.

Like I said before, I just went under the desk. And when it seemed like things had stopped falling down, I got up and tried to make my way to the front door, like everybody else was doing. Again, the people seemed -- the people on the main level did not seem to be hit too much, except for maybe the shock factor. The people in the basement, there's some very serious injuries.

HEMMER: Listen, Jeff, I want to keep you a little while longer, if I could, because your eyewitness account has, frankly, been excellent for us. Were you able to walk out of that building without much problem?

ROSE: Yes. Well, we walked out of it. There were beams on the floor. It was just a mess. It was smoky. And it was just -- just everybody had one thing on their mind: to get to the front door.

HEMMER: We have been told that at least 50 have been injured, Jeff, three seriously. We do not have word of any fatalities at this point, which would be an extreme silver lining in all of this...

ROSE: It sure would be.

HEMMER: ... especially if you looked at the damage on the street.

(CROSSTALK)

HEMMER: Go ahead. Go ahead.

ROSE: I am not certain of any injuries besides the Kaltech building. I don't know what happened above us. I don't know what happened next door. But there were people when I came out of the building, maybe five minutes after this all took place, the initial explosion, there were still people looking out the window in offices above our floors.

And I am looking at them, saying they have got to be crazy. Get the hell out of the building. So, I am not quite sure where it is contained to, but I know that the first floor ceiling came down, the second floor ceiling came down in our facility. The basement, from what I hear -- and the is pretty much concrete bowls downstairs. And from some of the workers that I talked to that work in the facility in the basement, they said that some of the walls had been blown out, some of the ceiling. But they were not sure whether the whole thing came down.

It's just a mess.

HEMMER: Hey, Jeff, do you know, were there problems in the boiler room before?

ROSE: Not that we are aware, because we're not -- that is management. That's -- the people we rent for do maintenance and things like that.

HEMMER: Could this have been routine maintenance? Is that a possibility?

ROSE: I have no idea. I can't answer that.

HEMMER: All right, what is happening right now, Jeff?

ROSE: I'm sorry?

HEMMER: What is happening right now around you?

ROSE: Well, most of the people from Kaltech were brought to a restaurant at 19th and Seventh. And they are being interviewed by New York City detectives. Obviously, the injured have been taken away. And we are all in shock.

HEMMER: Well, hey, listen, hang in there, OK?

ROSE: OK, thanks.

HEMMER: And thank you for sharing your story with us -- Jeff Rose, an employee of Kaltech Industries, been employed there for three years time.

And listening to his story, it must have been quite a nightmare on the streets of Chelsea about an hour and 25 minutes ago, 11:19 a.m., when that explosion ripped through the area. Police reports indicate the boiler may have blown up in the basement of Kaltech Industries, Jeff Rose saying that he was -- quote -- "thought I was going to die" in the ensuing moments after that explosion. He described ceilings coming down from the second and third floor above him -- and, obviously, a number of injured, as he points out, in the basement of that building. Kaltech Industries is a group that describes itself as the leader in fabricated interior and exterior designs. Information from their Web site online says it's a leader of fabricated signs. Having gained a worldwide appeal, innovation and precision-crafted signs can be seen throughout the U.S., Europe and the Far East. Again, that is from Kaltech Industries and Jeff Rose, an employee there in Chelsea.

About 25 minutes ago, you might remember we were looking at a piece of videotape. There is a truck driver or some sort of delivery man who works for UPS. I believe that brown truck in the middle of that side street is the truck in which he was working. Well, we tried to listen him earlier. Now did not hear him speak. But now we have that piece of videotape.

He was leaning up against a car or a truck behind him. Here is his account from a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: What were you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just walking down the sidewalk after making a delivery. I heard a hiss. And the whole wall came down on top of me. And the only thing that saved me was, I got pinned against a coffee wagon.

QUESTION: The entire wall came down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cinder blocks. From head to toe, I was on my knees.

QUESTION: Did you hear an explosion?

GROSS: Hiss. All I heard was a hiss and then boom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Again, a UPS driver in the area when that happened.

Back to Donna Kelley, who is on the streets of Manhattan as well.

Donna, what do you have for us?

Hey, Donna, if you can hear me, Bill Hemmer at the CNN Center. If you are with us, we will take your report. If not, we will come back to you. Donna, can you hear me?

Clearly, with the buildings in that part of Manhattan, it is quite possible that the cell service there is not the most reliable. Also, given the circumstances there, one would imagine that cell phone use is up in Manhattan at this point.

Kaltech Industries, now, is the building located next to the Apex Technical School. Early indications say that, in the basement of Kaltech Industries, a boiler may have blown up, resulting in the explosion and the damage we are seeing right now in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan -- at least 50 injured, three seriously, most taken off the hospitals, based on the eyewitness accounts we're getting on the streets.

Back to Donna Kelley.

And, Donna, I know it's quite loud. I'll speak up for you this time. What do you have?

KELLEY: Hi, Bill. I think I can barely hear you.

I'm up -- I've walked up a little bit off of the scene. We were actually shopping about a block away and a woman came in and said there had been an explosion. So we ran out of the building to try and see what had happened. And we were about a block away. We're on 7th and 19th right now. I've walked up a little bit and I asked one of the fire department folks and the police department here if they could tell us a little bit more information. But they didn't want to talk to us.

The best info that I was able to get for you I think was the intern, in fact, who used to work for CNN and he was able to tell us since he was an eyewitness there and talked about the blast blowing out of the building and the smoke that he saw. He thought there were quite a few folks. And I am not going to go into those numbers because I suspect as you've guys been able to get the latest and accurate numbers a little bit better than I have been able to, but they keep pushing us back.

And some of the other eyewitnesses who outside were talking, it's a real rainy, cold day here in New York. And they didn't feel apparently like hanging around to chat. So, I was not able to get another eyewitness for you. But John talked about the smoke and the glass blowing out. And certainly some of the other people that were around, of course, you know, September the 11th popped right into their mind. And, of course, I have to say it did mine, too. So we are just got here to see if we could get the latest information for you about what had happened.

But I'm telling you, with the helicopters here, and all the police, and the fire department and we did see some of the injured who were on the ground, it looked like up the block. We were trying to get past some of the police tape and get through some of the folks on the street. But those folks have been gone for quite some time. But it was difficult certainly not to think of September 11. So with all the news folks here and the noise and the ambulances and the helicopters that are still hovering overhead, I'm having a real hard time hearing you. So I would leave the numbers to you and the latest that you folks are probably able to find out.

HEMMER: I know it's tough to hear. I am going to give it a shot here though. Where are you, again? How close are you to the scene? And about 30 minutes ago, Anderson Cooper was already describing to us a situation that essentially calmed down. I'm not sure if that's the same perspective you're getting right now. But if you can hear me, hopefully you can address those two issues. KELLEY: I think, Bill -- I'm trying to hear you -- and I think you're asking me about the scene. Once we got there, apparently this had happened -- this woman who was in the store said that it had happened about 20 minutes before we were able to get out. And so, we ran up the block and by the time we got there, they were already putting out the police tape. And I looked up the block, and it looked like they were treating somebody on the sidewalk.

And then, as I got into it a little bit more, apparently, it was a block in another different direction than I thought that it was. And so, they had the New York fire department -- and I know that you folks are able to get a lot pictures on, so you've been able to see how many people are here. But it seemed to me like people were -- they were a little nervous. They were concerned, but it didn't seem like there was a great deal of panic. I didn't hear a lot of people screaming. I didn't hear a lot of people, you know, in a real tense mood. They were trying to get the street cleared out, so they kept pushing us back off the street into a press area.

A short time ago, a police department tow truck towed a white van -- you guys may have had that in pictures just a few minutes ago -- towed a van out away from the scene. But there were -- there are a lot of folks who are gathered around and they have all the emergency crew folks. And that Fire Department of New York mobile unit that looked like it was treating some of the folks, that they actually had some of the injured people come walking down out of that and they put them into an ambulance and took him off.

That Fire Department of New York mobile unit is still here on the scene. And they're just trying to get, it looks like, things cleared out around here. The fire trucks are still here, of course, and so are the police department vehicles. But it's been quite some time now that they've had the people who are injured taken out of here. And some of those were taken to the ambulance and some were treated apparently right here on the scene according to some of the information we got. Let me see -- it sounds like -- hold on one second. It sounds like they might get a little more information here. Folks are gathering around.

HEMMER: OK. Donna, we are going to leave it there. Donna Kelley...

KELLEY: We're getting this information about (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But here at this point, there's -- they have things well under control it looks like to me, but there's still a lot of emergency service folks on the scene and now they're towing away some other vehicles here on the street. So as far as I can tell, things, you know, are pretty well under control and I guess you guys have the latest numbers.

HEMMER: OK, great. Donna, thanks. Donna Kelley, again, difficult to hear among the confusion and chaos that apparently is starting to ebb quite substantially in the streets of Chelsea in Manhattan. But we will certainly keep track of this.

It has made for a very interesting 90 minutes here on a Thursday afternoon; 11:29 a.m. Eastern time, the explosion ripped through Chelsea. And according to the eyewitnesses and the accounts of those who were there to feel it and witness it and experience it, it was a, in the words of one, Jeff Rose, a three-year employee at Kaltech Industries, he said, quote, "I thought I was going to die, ceilings came down on the second floor and the third floor."

Early indications once again, according to police in New York City, that a boiler exploded in the basement of Kaltech Industries, which is a group that describes itself as the leader in fabricated interior and exterior signs. We will not leave this for long. More than 50 injured, three seriously.

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