Times Square was evacuated Saturday night after police noticed an incendiary device in a smoking Nissan Pathfinder parked close to the Broadway theater staging The Lion King.
At approximately 6:30 pm local time Saturday night, a tee shirt vendor alerted a mounted police officer that a parked car at 45th St appeared to be on fire. The bomb squad responded and found explosives included commercial grade fireworks, two 5-gallon containers of gasoline, three propane tanks and burned wires–all evidence of a failed bomb attempt. Officers removed a metal box resembling a gun locker, taking it away to be examined at safe location.
The bomb is being called “crude” and “amateur” because it lacked sophisticated timing and detonation devices. But despite its simplicity, had it exploded the damage would have been substantial and significant. Saturdays are the busiest evening in the area. Police swiftly and calmly moved hundreds of thousands of people out of the area between 43rd to 47th streets along Broadway and Seventh Avenue; quickly metal railings blocked the streets and sidewalks to vehicles and pedestrians. Parts of 48th Street were also closed.
A Fire Department officer told Reuters that a man had been seen by witnesses fleeing the area. Times Square has numerous surveillance cameras but as of the time of the news briefing, approximately 2:30am Sunday, no surveillance video had been found showing that.
The car was seen driving by the NYPD cameras at 6:28pm. The car was left parked with engine running and hazards on at 45th and Broadway. The Connecticut license plates do not match the car and the car’s VIN number has been removed. The plates were originally on a truck sent to a junk yard.
The President and Mayor Bloomberg, both of whom were at the White House Correspondents Dinner were briefed; the mayor left quickly for the city after the President spoke, arriving to deliver the press conference. The President directed federal agencies to aid in the investigation and commended the NYPD for their swift response.
Tourists were kept from their hotels, the south tower of the Marriot Marquis Hotel was evacuated, and some Broadway shows were canceled or delayed an hour or more, though “Fela!” at at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on West 49th Street–which Oprah Winfrey attended–was not disrupted, according to the Wall Street Journal. Ticket holders for canceled shows can get refunds.
The unexploded vehicle will yield a great deal of evidence, including fingerprints; and the propane tanks can be traced.
(from MSNBC and Fox News broadcasts as well as cited stories)