Search for source of explosion that rocked courthouse, homes fruitless

The Coryell County Courthouse.  (Photo by Paul J. Gately)
The Coryell County Courthouse. (Photo by Paul J. Gately)(KWTX)
Published: Aug. 17, 2018 at 10:03 AM CDT
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Something exploded somewhere Friday morning that that rocked the Coryell Courthouse in Gatesville, shook homes, and broke out some windows, but authorities said Friday afternoon they have been unable to locate the source.

Some residents also reported hearing a second loud explosion at around 2:40 p.m. Friday.

“We’ve checked out the western part of the county, after report of second boom near Pearl. All is clear," Chief Coryell County Deputy Mark Wilcox said Friday afternoon.

The first explosion at around 9:45 a.m. Friday was felt not only in Gatesville, but for miles around the community.

“It rattled the entire shop,” said resident Ronnie Bond, who lives on Powell Drive.

“It sounded like it was behind us towards the east. It was scary because it was so loud and all the neighbors ran out on the street because they were concerned, too, because of the recent tragedy,” he said, referring to the explosion in June at Coryell Memorial Hospital.

We were all concerned,” Bond said.

Although the explosion rattled his home, Bond said nothing was damaged.

“It hit you in the pit of the stomach because it happened so loudly and such an impact. You didn’t know what was going on,” he added.

Another man, who was in the courthouse at the time, said the explosion shook the building.

Gatesville ISD Superintendent Eric Penrod said the explosion was felt in all of the district's schools.

"We're in the middle of last day of teacher in-service...and to hear a boom it's not unheard of here between SpaceX and Fort Hood it's pretty common," he said.

"But this one was definitely different. The wall's shook, the window's shook," he said.

"If our kids had been in class and this had happened, we'd lock them all down and check the schools' perimeters, and wait for the authorities to find the origin of the boom," he said.

There were reports that some windows were broken out as a result of the blast, which evidently occurred somewhere east of the downtown area.

Several residents said they thought the explosion occurred in the area of 28th Street and Powell Drive, which is about five blocks north of Highway 84, northeast of the downtown area, but no damage was visible there.

Authorities were also checked out a gravel pit off CR 246, but found nothing.

A resident of Mound, about eight miles south-southeast of Gatesville, also felt the blast.

"I could feel the concussion from the blast when I was outside," Danny Lemons said.

A resident of Flat, which is south of Mound, also felt the explosion as did a resident on Moccasin Bend Road on the west side of Gatesville.

The explosion did not originate on Fort Hood, a post spokesman said.

SpaceX also confirmed that it was not the source of the detonation.

The U.S. Geological Survey didn’t detect any seismic activity Friday in Texas

The closest activity was a magnitude 2.7 tremor in Arizona.

No further details were immediately available.

On June 26 an explosion in a building under construction on the Coryell Memorial Hospital campus left three workers dead and 13 others injured.

The explosion inside the Central Utilities Plant building, which was intended as part of a major renovation to house the hospital’s new housing physical plant, including boilers and chillers, reduced the structure to rubble.

Ground was broken in November 2016 for the renovation and expansion project at the hospital.

The 117,000-square foot project includes new operating rooms, a new 25-bed hospital wing, administration offices, a 16-bed rehabilitation facility and the new central plant that houses chillers and boilers.

(Brandon Hamilton, John Carroll and Paul J. Gately contributed to this story)