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Explosion kills 2, injures 9 in New York

Police car lights (Alexandru Cuznetov/Dreamstime/TNS)
January 02, 2024

An explosion caused by a New Year’s Day car crash resulted in the death of two individuals and nine injuries after the driver of an SUV filled with gas cans sped toward multiple pedestrians and collided with another car outside the Kodak Center in Rochester, New York.

A Tuesday morning joint press conference with the Rochester Police Department, federal law enforcement authorities, and the mayor provided clarification regarding initial reports of the incident being linked to terrorism.

While the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Buffalo Field Office confirmed that it is providing assistance to the Rochester Police Department in the investigation of Monday’s tragic explosion incident, the Rochester Police Department noted that there is no evidence that the New Year’s Day crash was a terror attack or motivated by any political bias.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Rochester Police Chief David M. Smith identified the suspect as 35-year-old Michael Avery. Smith, who is reportedly from the Syracuse region, died Monday night as a result of the injuries he suffered in the car crash.

Smith told reporters that the investigation has not yet revealed Avery’s motive; however, he said law enforcement authorities have been in contact with the suspect’s family, who indicated that Avery “may have been suffering from possible undiagnosed mental health issues.”

Smith added, “We have not recovered any information that his actions were motivated by any form of political or social biases,” The police chief also said that preliminary findings from the investigation suggest that Avery acted alone.

READ MORE: Videos: 18-wheeler explosion sparks 200-foot flames

NBC News reported that Monday’s crash occurred just before 1 a.m. after a “moe” concert” at the Kodak Center. Avery was reportedly driving a Ford Expedition on West Ridge Road toward an area where local police officers were directing traffic.

“At this time, Avery sped up, crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic and appears to have intentionally been driving towards the pedestrian crossing,” Smith said. 

Avery reportedly crashed into a Mitsubishi Outlander, which resulted in both vehicles going “through a group of pedestrians” located in the crosswalk. Police reported that both passengers in the Mitsubishi Outlander were killed, while the driver suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

According to NBC News, the car crash resulted in an explosion and a fire that took over an hour for firefighters to put out. After the fire was extinguished, firefighters reportedly discovered gasoline cans “in and around” the Ford Expedition, according to the police. The discovery of the gasoline cans resulted in the FBI being notified of Monday’s incident.

While early reports indicated that three pedestrians were injured by the car crash, Smith told reporters Tuesday that the number of injured pedestrians had risen to nine. Smith said that one pedestrian sustained “life-altering injuries.” He added that the other eight individuals are expected to fully recover from their injuries.

In the aftermath of Monday’s tragic incident outside the concert, the band released a statement on social media.

“Last night’s events outside the Kodak Center have left us all in profound shock and sadness,” the band members wrote. “On a night that was meant for celebration and togetherness, we are faced instead with a tragedy that defies understanding. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of those who lost their lives, and our thoughts are with those who were injured.”

During Tuesday’s press conference, Smith explained that Avery is believed to have traveled to Rochester on Dec. 27 and checked into the WoodSpring Suites, which is located in a suburb of Rochester. Two days after his arrival, Smith reportedly left his vehicle at the Rochester Airport parking garage and rented a Ford Expedition.

According to Smith, Avery made “at least half a dozen purchases of gasoline and gas containers at different locations” in Monroe and Ontario Counties on Dec. 30. Smith added that no suicide note was found during the execution of a search warrant at Avery’s hotel room on Monday.