Investigation continues into Virginia explosion that injured three ROTC students, two others

Two Virginia Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fly over James Madison University a the start of a football game Nov. 9, 2019, in Harrisonburg, Va.


By RACHEL CHASON | The Washington Post | Published: October 18, 2020

An investigation continued Sunday into the cause of an explosion in Harrisonburg, Va., that injured five, including three James Madison University students.

The explosion — which led to a fire that engulfed a building in a strip mall about a mile south of campus — was near the finish line of a U.S. Army Ten-Mile race, the school said. Three students involved in JMU’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps sustained minor injuries in the blast Saturday morning, the university said.

They were part of a group of about 30 people. The building exploded within 30 yards of the finish line. The blast was so forceful that it rattled the windows of nearby homes.

University officials said that two other individuals who were flown to the University of Virginia Medical Center were not affiliated with the university. Both were in stable condition Saturday. The University of Virginia Medical Center did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.

James Madison University’s counseling center and dean of students have been in communication with all the students who were near the explosion, the school said, and recommended that any students seeking mental health support contact the university’s counseling center at 540-568-6552.

A spokeswoman for the Harrisonburg police department said the city would have an update on Monday.

Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted Saturday that state emergency personnel had been deployed for additional support. He said the blast was the result of a gas explosion. His office did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.