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Explosion Near Mid-City Synagogue Accidental  

By Ann K. Williams
Lookout Staff

April 8, 2011 -- Local and federal public safety agencies converged on a synagogue in midtown Santa Monica Thursday morning after a nearby explosion which fire department officials later determined was accidental. No one was hurt by the blast.

Santa Monica Police and Fire Department officers were joined at 17th and Broadway streets by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and officers from the Los Angeles County Bomb Squad and Sheriff's Department.

Several local news agencies reported during the morning that the explosion was a caused by a pipe bomb and might have been a hate crime.

In fact, it was “a freak industrial accident,” not a deliberate act, Captain Judah Mitchell told the Lookout Thursday afternoon.

A valve encased in 300 pounds of concrete that was sitting in a pile of construction debris next door to the Chabad House was propelled upwards and crashed through the roof of a neighboring house. The outer wall of the synagogue was scraped by the projectile.

The Fire Department has taken samples from the site and the cause of the blast is under investigation, Mitchell said.

“We thank the police department for all their good work, and all the departments for all of their great work,” Rabbi Isaac Levitansky told the Lookout Thursday afternoon.

Rabbi Levitansky added that he was thankful that that nothing worse had happened, but was glad that the public safety agencies had taken the incident so seriously.

People who'd gathered for morning prayers inside Chabad House didn't hear the explosion and were only aware that something untoward had happened when the police showed up to evacuate the building, he said.

They continued their prayers on the corner of 16th Street and Broadway in what the Rabbi called a “mobile minyan.”

Four blocks surrounding Chabad House were evacuated until the explosion had been determined to have been accidental.

The area was back to normal shortly after noon, aside from a few news trucks and a fire truck parked in front of the synagogue, and Rabbi Levitansky turned his attention back to Passover preparations.

He wanted to make sure residents know about Chabad House's free Seder dinners for the community at large and for the Russian-speaking community on April 18 and 19, and called for volunteers to deliver “Seder in a Bag” preparations to shut-ins. More information can be found at or by calling 310 453-301l.


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