Authorities are investigating a pipe bomb that exploded in a Jersey Shore garbage can Saturday morning, shortly before hundreds of people were expected to run through the area in a charity race benefiting Marines and Navy sailors.
The blast occurred about 9:35 a.m. near the boardwalk in Seaside Park, along the route of the Seaside Semper Five Marine Corps Charity 5K, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.
There were no reported injuries or damage to surrounding buildings, and the area was immediately placed on a lockdown while bomb-sniffing dogs searched for other explosive devices, the prosecutor’s office said.
Officials added that there was at least one other device reported that the New Jersey State Police would “make safe” but did not give further details.
The race had been delayed, so there were no crowds in the area at the time, according to authorities. A 1-mile Semper Five “fun run” had been scheduled to start at 9 a.m., and the 5K race had been scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m.
As late as 7 a.m., organizers were posting updates about the race on social media. It would have been the third annual running of the five-kilometer out-and-back along the Jersey Shore.
“OOHRAH!” read the caption underneath a video of an American flag waving near the would-be finish line. “PERFECT CONDITIONS FOR THE #SEASIDESEMPERFIVE”
However, less than an hour later, runners were being told there would be no race.
“#SeasideSemperFive just shut down bc of suspicious bag,” tweeted one participant, Felecia Wellington. “Not sure what is going on. We are being told to go home.”
Wellington, who declined to be interviewed but verified her social media posts, said on Twitter that she had not heard an explosion and that runners were evacuated before the area was shut down.
“Emergency services responded very quickly to the explosion & suspicious bag situation in Seaside,” Wellington tweeted again later. “Happy we are safe.”
Race organizers canceled the race at the last minute Saturday morning.
“Out of extreme precaution, this year’s Seaside Semper Five has been canceled due to an unidentified suspicious backpack found at the race site,” read a statement on the race website. “The safety and security of our participants, spectators, staff and volunteers is of utmost importance.”
The event was put on by the MARSOC Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports active-duty and retired members of the Marine Corps, Navy and their families.
It is unclear how many runners had signed up to participate in the Semper Five race. Results from past years’ races listed more than 700 finishers. Organizers did not immediately respond to an email inquiry Saturday.
Several local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies are investigating the pipe bomb. As of Saturday afternoon, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department was advising people to avoid the area.
In 2013, two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed three people and injured 264. Since then, security at that race – as well as at other major marathons and large-scale running events – has tightened.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Amy B Wang
The New Jersey State Police put out the following statement:
Seaside Park, N.J. – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that authorities are investigating an explosion in a trash can near the boardwalk in Seaside Park, N.J., that occurred this morning as a charity 5K race was about to begin.
No one was injured in the blast, which is being investigated by the New Jersey State Police, FBI, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, Ocean County Sheriff’s Department and Seaside Park Police Department. All of those agencies are at the scene.
Attorney General Porrino and Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, have briefed Governor Chris Christie on the incident and the investigation into the blast.
“Working with the FBI and ATF, we are taking every step to ensure the safety of the public and to determine who was responsible for this explosion, which occurred at a time when runners in this charity race could have been in harms way,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We are grateful that nobody was injured, but this is a serious act of violence against the people of New Jersey. We will not rest until we find the person or persons responsible.”
The explosion occurred at approximately 9:30 a.m. The Semper Five 5K run had been scheduled to begin shortly after 9 a.m., but the start was delayed and no runners were in proximity to the trash can when the explosion occurred. The race was canceled after the blast.
Authorities cordoned off the scene of the explosion at the corner of D Street and Ocean Avenue and are conducting a search of the surrounding area. No additional explosions or secondary locations have been identified. Initial reports of a second device found in another trash can have been refuted. However, State Police bomb technicians have rendered safe items located in the same trash can in which the explosion occurred.
Law enforcement partners have been performing a wide search in the area and roads remain closed during the ongoing search and investigation.
No suspects have been arrested in connection with the explosion. Attorney General Porrino urged any with information related to the explosion to call the New Jersey State Police Homeland Security Tipline at 1-866-4SAFENJ.