27-year-old bank worker’s body found in rubble of massive Ohio explosion

The body of a 27-year-old Chase Bank employee has been recovered from the rubble after a gas explosion destroyed the first floor of a building in downtown Youngstown, Ohio.

The body was found in the Realty Building’s basement on Wednesday morning around 12.30am, Mayor Tito Brown said at a press conference on Wednesday. The worker has been identified as Akil Drake, 27, by the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office, local news outlet WFMJ reports.

“It’s a tough part when you have to tell a mother that her son got up yesterday to go to work and he did not come home,” Mayor Brown said during the conference, adding that the community needs to “wrap our arms” around bank staff and residents who were near the explosion.

Officials did not confirm the name of the deceased man, nor the other seven who were injured. An autopsy will be carried out by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office. Fire Chief Barry Finley said that the most severely injured person is currently a woman on a ventilator in surgical intensive care. The others have varying levels of injuries.

The Youngstown Police Department said in a statement that detectives were called out to assist with a missing person, and after a brief investigation, they determined the missing person was an employee of Chase Bank, where the natural gas explosion had occurred just before 3pm.

“It was also discovered that he was at work and was observed inside the building right before the blast,” the department wrote. “During their rescue efforts, the Youngstown Fire Department recovered that missing person, who was unfortunately deceased.”

The police extended their condolences to the family of the deceased employee.

Firefighters assess the damage after explosion in Youngstown (RON FLAVIANO via REUTERS)
Firefighters assess the damage after explosion in Youngstown (RON FLAVIANO via REUTERS)

Chief Finley added that the fire department, along with other agencies, made sure every person had been accounted for by taking on the dangerous task of searching the building room by room, floor by floor, to make sure it was clear.

The officials said at the press conference that they would not be speculating on what caused the explosion at this time, as the investigation is in very early stages, with state fire marshals still on scene as of Wednesday morning.

Chase Bank released a statement after learning about the death of its employee.

“The JPMorgan Chase family mourns the loss of our colleague. Our hearts go out to their family as well as our injured employees, their families and other affected by this tragedy,” they said, according to the outlet.

“We will continue to work with local officials to support them.”

Smoke riseing from a JPMorgan Chase & Co. floor Realty Building on Tuesday after explosion (RON FLAVIANO via REUTERS)
Smoke riseing from a JPMorgan Chase & Co. floor Realty Building on Tuesday after explosion (RON FLAVIANO via REUTERS)

Security footage from a camera across the street from the explosion captured the moment the 13-story building’s storefront blew out, sending concrete, glass and other debris spilling onto the street.

Individuals in the downtown area said they heard a loud boom and saw a smoke cloud when the explosion occurred, WKBN reports.

Those living in the 23 apartment units above the bank were evacuated after the explosion as were those in the International Towers apartment building across the street.

“Please AVOID downtown Youngstown. Major explosion from possible natural gas leak with injuries,” the Youngstown Professional Fire Fighters labor union posted on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon.

Youngstown’s fire chief, Barry Finley, told WFMJ that an evacuation order was issued for every building adjacent to the Realty Building.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Youngstown’s Deputy Directory of Public Works Chuck Shasho said that roads are still blocked off downtown, and while they will be erecting barricades around the building, the public should avoid the area in case of any loose debris.

The Independent has contacted the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office for further information.