Explosion outside Santa Monica Chabad Synagogue
After over four hours of investigations, an explosion initially thought to be a pipe bomb near the Chabad House Lubavitch on 17th Street in Santa Monica, has been determined a construction accident mechanical in nature. At approximately 7:15 a.m. Thursday morning, prayer services were disrupted by the Santa Monica Police Department who evacuated close to 20 congregants. Rabbi Isaac Levitansky was leading services when the incident occurred. "The police department came in and said there is a suspected gas leak, and we had to evacuate the building," said Levitansky.
According to witnesses, an explosion occurred near the end of the property in an adjacent alley, which caused a large object to land on a neighboring house, leaving a large hole in the roof.
"We didn't hear anything," said Levitansky, "we were in the middle of morning prayers." Unfazed by the incident, Levitansky and his congregation resumed their morning prayers outside.
According to Judah Mitchell, public information officer for the SMFD, neighboring residents called on the incident after an object crashed through the roof of the building next door to the Chabad House. There have been no reported injuries.
Rabbi Eli Levitansky, who was also present at the morning service, said, "It wasn't an explosion like anyone would imagine, that's not what anybody heard—a truck could go by and you'd hear the same sound."
Both Santa Monica's police and fire departments, the FBI, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms law enforcement, and public safety crews swarmed the scene of the incident, and surrounding streets were blocked for several hours.
FBI spokeswoman Lourves Arocha denied rumors that the explosion was a terrorist act. "It was determined that the explosion was caused by an industrial incident," said Arocha, "no explosives or improvised incendiary devices were found."
Isaac Levitansky relayed what he had been told caused the accident, "They are saying there was some illegal hazardous waste that was dumped on the side of the building," said Levitansky, "some sort of construction material."
Spokespeople for both the FBI and the ATF have said that their roles in this instance are to assist the SMPD, which is currently overseeing the investigation.