FBI investigates after car blast kills 1 on downtown street

Police join members of the ATF and the FBI work in a parking lot off North 7th Street in Allentown, Pa., hours after a fiery car explosion rocked the neighborhood on Saturday. Police confirmed at least one fatality and at least 50 investigators remain on the scene scouring for evidence. (Harry Fisher/The Morning Call via AP)

ALLENTOWN, Pa. –  A car exploded on a downtown street, killing at least one person and leading to a shelter-in-place order for nearby residents, and federal authorities are helping local officials in the investigation.

The blast happened in Allentown around 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Assistant Police Chief Gail Struss said early Sunday.

"We can confirm that there is at least one fatality," she said in a statement. A news conference was planned Sunday afternoon.

City and Lehigh County authorities are investigating along with state police, the FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

"There is not believed to be any remaining threat to public safety," the FBI said in a message on Twitter. "We thank residents of the area for their patience as evidence is collected and secured."

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."

Another witness to the aftermath of the explosion, Stephanie Connelly, told The Morning Call that she saw body parts strewn across the street.

"This is real life and I’m shaking and freaking out while I’m running," she said.

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.

The FBI earlier said it was working with other agencies and "to assess the situation and determine the cause, with public safety the bureau’s highest priority." Officials asked anyone who witnessed the blast or had information about it to contact investigators.

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