Saturday, November 18, 2017
News Roundup

Rooftop bomb showers glass and debris in Tarpon Springs, injuring two

RECOMMENDED READING


TARPON SPRINGS — A deafening bomb exploded on the roof of a vacant building early Sunday, shattering downtown windows, showering patrons of a nightclub below with debris and blowing doors off their hinges.

Tarpon Springs police tied the blast to similar explosions in past years marking the celebration of Greek Orthodox Easter, but will likely rank it among the most devastating. Sunday's explosion coincided with a midnight resurrection service taking place at a nearby cathedral.

At the Zone Lounge at 121 E Tarpon Ave., more than 225 customers raced for cover. Some were bleeding. One of the bar's owners, Deanna Dunbar, briefly lost her hearing.

The blast detonated at 12:12 a.m., authorities say, on the roof of an empty building between the Zone Lounge and second-floor apartments above the Artists' Faire Gallery, 111 E Tarpon Ave.

"I have been here 25 years, and this is one of the loudest explosions I have heard around this event," said Tarpon Springs police Capt. Barbara Templeton.

Emergency responders including police, firefighters, bomb technicians and forensic teams rushed to the scene. Templeton said at least two women were treated for cuts, but she was not aware of anyone being hospitalized.

A backpack on Hibiscus Street was found to contain materials that could be used to set off a bomb, Templeton said, but police have not arrested anyone for the blast. The Tarpon Springs Police Department is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an identification and arrest.

Kyle Larson was on the sidewalk across from the Zone Lounge when he saw a "big white flash."

"It was like lightning, almost," said Larson, 42. The explosion came milliseconds later. "It wasn't like, 'kabam.' It was like, boom … ba-BOOM. It was like a two-stage concussion."

Chris Seslar, a partner in the Zone, was on the sidewalk outside when he heard what sounded like a bottle rocket followed by a massive blast. He raced inside and toward a rear patio, where many patrons with bicycles had gathered, part of a charity event for autism.

Later Sunday, Seslar, 48, stood in his empty lounge and pointed to the huge space that a day before had contained doors. "This whole door was blown wide open," he said. "There was glass everywhere."

The same bomb left a 6-foot-wide depression, destroyed a shed on the roof of the vacant building and rained glass and asphalt on frightened customers below.

"You've got people bleeding," Seslar said. "You've got people running this way, running that way. Nobody knows if there's a secondary bomb or anything like that."

• • •

Travis Merriex, who lives in the second-floor apartments, topped off a quiet Saturday night by walking his dog.

A little before midnight, he fell asleep on the couch. The explosion pushed the couch from the wall and threw him to the floor.

"I didn't know what to do," said Merriex, 21. "I thought the world was coming to an end."

• • •

As investigators from several agencies worked the scene, unrelated bits of chaos broke out on their own. Someone set a fire on the asphalt of Ring Avenue, with flames estimated at 3 feet high.

And an unidentified man was accused of stealing an ambulance. Authorities tracked the ambulance through its GPS device to a nearby water treatment facility. Police found a man inside the facility they say advanced toward them with objects clenched in both hands.

Police Tasered the man, thought to be at least 30 years old, Templeton said. The objects in his hands turned out to be a flashlight and a potato.

• • •

The Zone Lounge had closed its second-floor bar Saturday because of the charity event and the start of renovations. That floor has two restrooms, both nearly always in use, said Seslar.

Those restroom windows overlook the vacant rooftop where the bomb went off. "The bomb technician said, if anyone had been in those restrooms, they would be dead," Templeton said.

• • •

The tradition of setting off explosives around Easter migrated here in the Greek community from the islands in the Aegean Sea, when celebrants threw dynamite over cliffs to mark the resurrection. But in recent years in Tarpon Springs, such celebrations have become increasingly destructive, authorities fear.

In 2005, a "Greek bomb" demolished windows of two restaurants on Dodecanese Boulevard. In 2010, someone remotely set off 11 minutes' worth of illegal fireworks on the roof of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral during its Easter Eve service.

"When a tradition threatens life and property," Templeton said, "it's time to rethink the tradition."

Well-wishers called Seslar all day, asking how to help.

"If I have to tell you what I need," he said, "the word I want to get out to everybody is, 'Stop making bombs.' "

Comments

AC/DC founding member Malcolm Young dead at 64

NEW YORK (AP) — Malcolm Young, the rhythm guitarist and guiding force behind the Australian hard rock band AC/DC, has died. He was 64. AC/DC announced the death on their official Facebook page and website Saturday. The posts did not say when or where...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Tampa police: Drunk wrong-way driver caused major crashes on Courtney Campbell Causeway

Tampa police: Drunk wrong-way driver caused major crashes on Courtney Campbell Causeway

TAMPA — Police arrested a 26-year-old man they say drove the wrong way while drunk and caused a multi-vehicle crash Friday on the Courtney Campbell Causeway.Collin John Cole faces two counts of driving under the influence causing serious bodily injur...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Dolphins preview

Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Dolphins preview

Greg Auman has a final preview of Sunday’s Bucs-Dolphins game in Miami in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.He talks about key matchups to watch for, from perhaps the NFL’s best slot receiver in Jarvis Landry, to Miami’s vulnerabilities at right tackl...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Fennelly: If this is true, Jameis Winston is done in this town

Fennelly: If this is true, Jameis Winston is done in this town

TAMPA — Why should we believe this man?Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston is being investigated by the NFL concerning an allegation of him groping a female Uber driver in Scottsdale, Ariz., in March 2016.Winston denied the allegations Friday in a statem...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Romano: Hunting for a deadly needle in the Seminole Heights haystack

Romano: Hunting for a deadly needle in the Seminole Heights haystack

During the day, you hear from the psychics and the kooks. The well-intentioned tipsters, and the unsolicited profilers. This is all part of serial killer spillover, a sort of cottage industry of macabre.It gets tougher at night when you’re hounded by...
Updated: 21 minutes ago

Possible wrong-way crash on Courtney Campbell Causeway late Friday

TAMPA — A multi-vehicle crash on the Courtney Campbell Causeway late Friday may have been caused by a driver traveling in the wrong direction, Tampa police said.The crash occurred in the eastbound lanes closer to the Tampa side of the causeway, near ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Region football: Clearwater Central Catholic 37, Calvary Christian 10

CLEARWATER — The ice bath ensued for Clearwater Central Catholic coach Chris Harvey after the Marauders’ 37-10 victory over Calvary Christian in Friday’s Class 3A region final. The win placed the Marauders (11-0) in their fifth state tournament since...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

TAMPA — Police took one person into custody late Friday after a drive-by shooting ended in Seminole Heights.The incident, which unfolded about 11 p.m., did not appear to be related to the spate of other recent shootings in Seminole Heights that have ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Region football: Plant 22, Viera 18

Region football: Plant 22, Viera 18

MELBOURNE — With 1 yard separating Plant from an incredible come-from-behind victory, or a devastating defeat, it all came down to a matter of trust.And for Panthers coach Robert Weiner, there was no one he would put more faith in to get that 1 yard ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Region football: Armwood 22, Hillsborough 0

Region football: Armwood 22, Hillsborough 0

SEFFNER — Hillsborough conquered one nemesis with last week’s win over Class 6A defending state finalist Lake Gibson, the team that knocked the Terriers out of the playoffs in the first round a year ago.But there was an even bigger stumbling block to...
Updated: 12 hours ago