NEW YORK, N.Y. (NBC 4) — An 18-year-old Virginia man was severely injured in a small explosion in Central Park Sunday, said authorities, who quickly closed a large portion of the park as a precaution.
A senior law enforcement official told NBC 4 New York that preliminary information suggests that the blast was a fireworks mishap.
The explosion happened around 11:00 a.m. inside the park at 68th Street and Fifth Avenue, according to the FDNY.
The injured man, whose identity hasn’t been disclosed by police, was undergoing surgery at Bellevue Hospital. He suffered a significant foot injury, an official said.
Friends of the injured man told police they are visiting the city from Virginia and denied they were playing with fireworks, the official said. The NYPD bomb squad is investigating to determine exactly what the material is that caused the injury.
A bag of fireworks was found at the scene of the explosion, but it isn’t clear if it belonged to the injured man and his friends, the senior official said.
Connecticut resident John Murphy, who was in the park at the time of the accident, said he talked to friends of the victim who said they were climbing rocks when he stepped on something that severely damaged his left foot.
Despite previous reporting, officials said the park did not close and people were not evacuated. The three- to four-block area where the explosion occurred was cordoned off as is customary in any incident.
Tenzin Ratling, 46, a photographer who sells his work most days on the perimeter of the park, said that he heard the blast and initially thought it was some type of test for a Fourth of July fireworks display.
“But then many police arrived and I thought that a bad thing happened,” he said.
Some people at the park said the accident was a scare ahead of Independence Day celebrations. Although there are no specific threats to the city, police have announced that a heavy police presence will be seen over the holiday weekend.
“It’s very unnerving,” Bronx resident Rafael Anico said, adding that the fact that it occurred around the Fourth of July “makes it even worse.”
However, the incident didn’t diminish the number of people enjoying the park. Many even ducked under crime-scene tape draped across a pathway in the vicinity of the explosion.