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Man seriously hurts foot in Central Park explosion, the NYPD says

Police and emergency service crews at the scene

Police and emergency service crews at the scene in Central Park where authorities said a man was injured in an explosion while walking with a friend about 11 a.m. Sunday, July 3, 2016. Credit: Charles Eckert

An 18-year-old tourist seriously injured his foot Sunday when he jumped onto what NYPD officials said they believe could be “an experiment with fireworks or homemade explosives,” left in a tourist-heavy section of Central Park.

There is no evidence the incident was related to terrorism, and there remains no specific, credible threat directed at New York City this July Fourth holiday, Deputy Police Chief John O’Connell said at a Sunday evening news conference.

The blast about 11 a.m. near the southeast end of the iconic green space — just yards from the Central Park Zoo — was heard for blocks, startling people enjoying the warm weekend weather.

One witness said it was a sustained boom unlike any fireworks he’s heard.

“There was a small explosion, then dust,” said another young man who described himself as a friend of the victim but would not give his name.

The “shock-sensitive explosive material” was probably made by “somebody who has knowledge of chemistry,” said NYPD Lt. Mark Torre, commanding officer of the department’s bomb squad. Forensic evidence shows it was not meant to be set off by someone stepping on it and may have been left behind after it failed to discharge, Torre said.

Three men ages 18 to 20 were jumping off a rock when the explosion occurred, hurting one of them, O’Connell said. People, including children, often climb or rest on the park’s giant rocks.

Connor Golden, visiting from Fairfax, Virginia, was rushed to Bellevue Hospital Center with a severe injury to his left foot, police said. Golden was undergoing surgery, said FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Michael Gala. He reportedly lost his foot — or a part of his foot — in the blast, but Gala would not detail Golden’s condition, calling it only a “traumatic injury to his left foot.”

A lone shoe and bag could be seen at the blast site. An investigator at one point in the afternoon appeared to pick up a paper-like material from the scene and smell it.

Authorities, including FDNY officials; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives specialists; and FBI personnel, responded to the scene and a swath of the park several blocks long was cordoned off to the public for the rest of the day.

Beyond the perimeter, members of the public seemed to go about their day.

The three men are not considered to be part of the construction of the object, O’Connell said.

The area was searched by trained dogs and deemed safe, O’Connell said. Investigators will continue canvassing and collecting video and witness evidence, he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a tweet Sunday night said the blast was likely homemade fireworks and not caused by a device.

“Central Park, both statistically and by reputation, is one of the safest patches of land in any big city in America,” he tweeted.

With Alison Fox

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