Autopsies are planned Monday on the bodies of three people found dead after a car explosion on a downtown street in what authorities called a “criminal incident” being probed by federal, state and local authorities.
Three males were found dead after the 9:30 p.m. Saturday blast in Allentown, said Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is leading the investigation along with the FBI, state police, and city and county authorities. Officials said the blast was believed to have been an isolated incident with no ongoing threat to the public.
“We know there’s been a criminal incident,” District Attorney James Martin told reporters at a news conference Sunday. “We have a high degree of confidence that the perpetrator was probably killed in the incident.”
Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim identified the dead as Jacob G. Schmoyer, 26, of Allentown; his 2-year-old son, Jonathan; and David Hallman, 66, who was also an Allentown resident.
Grim said the three died of traumatic injuries. He has not yet ruled on the manner of death.
The explosion on the 700 block of Turner Street shook Center City around 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Fragments of the car and body parts littered the street for dozens of yards. The area has been sealed off since, with residents forced to stay elsewhere.
Authorities released no information about the possible cause of the blast, including whether it was a bomb, but Martin said “loads of us in law enforcement” are confident “this was A. an isolated incident and B. there’s no continuing threat.”
Authorities are seeking the public’s help and asked anyone with information to call the ATF.
Resident Carlos Perodin told The Morning Call of Allentown that he was watching a movie with his wife when he heard a thunderous explosion and went to the scene.
“The fire was crazy,” he said. “The car was pretty much split in half.”
Stephanie Connelly, who saw the aftermath of the explosion, told The Morning Call that she saw body parts strewn across the street.
A bus station was turned into a makeshift command center with armored vehicles, dozens of police cruisers, mobile command units and even portable bathrooms, the paper reported. Several portable tents were also erected for evidence processing.
Residents were asked to avoid the area, and people who live nearby were asked to shelter in place. A shelter was set up at an elementary school. Officials asked anyone who witnessed the blast or had information about it to contact investigators.
“We are dealing with an explosion — that could be anything from an accident to an explosive device,” said Don Robinson, special agent in charge with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the lead investigative agency.
“We are making a lot of progress in both the scene and interview portions of the investigation,” he said. “We expect to be done probably by [Tuesday].”
No arrests have been made, he added.
A report circulated by another local media outlet that one victim was a man walking his dog past the car when it blew up was incorrect, officials said.
“The two adult males, we’re confident those two did know each other,” Robinson said. “As far as someone walking by at that time, that’s not the case. We’re still investigating and looking into the circumstances of that meeting but we do know those two subjects knew each other and actually were friends.”
About the dog, Robinson said “there may have been a dog in the area and one of the subjects may have had a dog.” He added that investigators never recovered any dog remains from the scene.”Only three male bodies.”
Grim said the dog survived the blast and was taken to a veterinarian for treatment. “He’s doing fine,” he said.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk