At least two explosions shattered the festive air at the end of the grueling Boston Marathon on Monday, leaving at least two people dead and injuring upwards of 100 others, including eight who were critically injured, officials said.
One of the two people killed was an 8-year-old.
About three hours into the 117th running of the 26.2-mile race, an explosion went off at the Boylston Street finish line, witnesses said, and that blast was followed by a second explosion just seconds later.
Video images showed bloody spectators looking dazed and chaos erupting as runners quickly shuffled to the side and would-be rescuers surged forward. Ambulances and firefighters poured into the scene, rushing the victims to hospitals.
Cellphone service crashed, and nearby hotels went into lockdown mode.
“It’s chaos here,” said spectator Samantha Bissonnette, a 22-year-old senior at Tufts University. In texts, she said she was about half a mile away when the explosions went off, and described hearing two claps “as loud as thunder.”
“I thought they were taking the stands down. ... It was so loud, I knew it couldn’t be thunder. ... Not a cloud in the sky. Then slowly they blocked off the runners ... cops ran in packs down the street. The runners seemed confused and slowly panic started to set in ... people used their cheering signs to find their families.
“I saw pictures of the blast on twitter ... everyone was passing phones to runners to contact their families.”
Kayley Pettoruto, 23, a graduate student at Boston University, said she went to the marathon to support former track teammates. She said she was about a mile away when she heard the sirens.
“I was really shocked,” she said. “Freaked out a little. It’s the Boston Marathon; you’d never think this would happen. At first, I thought maybe it was a gas explosion.”
Will Ritter, communications director for Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez, said he was about a block away from the grandstands near the finish line when he heard two loud explosions, followed by billowing white smoke.
Ritter said that when the loud bangs occurred, he had been setting up a news conference with Gomez, a former Navy SEAL who had just finished the marathon about minutes earlier.
The blasts were seconds apart, he said, about an hour after the first male contestants crossed the finish line.
Officials immediately launched an investigation, but racer organizers referred to “bombs” to explain the explosions.
In Washington, President Obama was told of the incident.
“The president has been notified of the incident in Boston. His administration is in contact with state and local authorities. He directed his administration to provide whatever assistance is necessary in the investigation and response,” a White House official said.
Soon after being notified around 3 p.m. local time, the president got a briefing in the Oval Office from homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco and other members of his senior White House staff, the White House said.
Obama then called Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to express his concern for those who were injured and to make clear that his administration is ready to provide needed support as they respond to the incident, officials said.
Vice President Joe Biden interrupted his remarks on a telephone call with gun-control advocates after an aide turned on the television, reports said.
“Apparently there has been a bombing. I don’t know any of the details of what caused it,” he said. “Our prayers are with those people in Boston.”
(This story was reported by Jessica Garrison, Maeve Reston, Matt Pearce, Michael Muskal, Christine Mai-Duc, Julie Cart and Rosanna Xia in Los Angeles. Also contributing were Christi Parsons, Matea Gold and Michael A. Memoli in Washington. Alana Semuels contributed from New York.)
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