Officials Provide Limited Details on Youngstown Explosion

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Details remain vague regarding a Tuesday afternoon gas explosion at the Realty Tower downtown that killed one man.

The Mahoning County Coroner’s Office identified the victim as Akil Drake, 27, an employee of Chase Bank, which leased space on the first floor for a bank branch. He was found in the basement, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said at a news conference Wednesday morning.

Brown extended condolences to Drake’s family and co-workers.

“It’s a tough part when you have to tell a mother that her son got up yesterday to go to work and he did not come home from the bank,” he said. 

Akil Drake (Credit: Penn Hills School District)

Brown said the Ohio Fire Marshal is leading the investigation. 

“We are not talking about any type of cause yet,” the mayor said. “The State Fire Marshal, they’re going to give us that. We’re waiting for them to tell us that. We’re taking their lead on this.”

A spokesman for the fire marshal confirmed in a statement that the office, as well as the explosion investigations bureau, is investigating in conjunction with the city police and fire departments. The spokesman didn’t know the cause of the explosion as of this morning.

Fire Chief Barry Finley said one of the victims who had been unaccounted for as of early Tuesday evening had been transported to the hospital. She was registered under a name different from what had been given to authorities. 

Charles Shasho, city deputy director of public works, said roads and sidewalks around the building remain closed.

“Our first priority right now is keeping the general public safe,” he said.

Shasho said a structural engineer hired by the building owner will assess the building.

“Please keep in mind that we still don’t know at this point 100% certainty on the stability of the building itself, as well as the general hazards of being in an area where there’s loose debris that’s able to fall,” he said. 

He advised the public to stay out of the general area.

Damage is seen Tuesday after the explosion at the Realty Tower in downtown Youngstown.

YO Properties 47 LLC, the company that owns the building, issued a statement Wednesday saying everyone at the company is “shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries resulting from the explosion that occurred. Their heartfelt sympathy and condolences are extended to the family of the young man who lost his life. YO Properties 47, LLC, in cooperation with the relevant governmental agencies, is investigating as to how and why this explosion happened. Appropriately, pending this investigation, YO Properties 47, LLC will not be making any further public statements.”

One of the residents of the building, Deanna Rossi, confirmed that crews were working in the building basement at the time of the explosion. She didn’t know the company’s name or what the work involved.

Brown declined to talk about a potential cause, saying the fire marshal is reviewing video of who was in the building at the time.

Twisted metal and shattered glass litter the sidewalk and street in front of the building as safety personnel attend the scene.

City police and firefighters, as well as those from surrounding communities and state and federal agencies, responded to the scene Tuesday afternoon.

Safety personnel are seen at Realty Tower on Wednesday.

An email from Mercy Health said one person remains in critical condition, three were treated and released and three are hospitalized in stable condition.

The Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board is offering emergency counseling services through Compass Family and Community Services, according to a statement from the Mahoning County commissioners. The number is 330 782 5664. Services will be available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with walk-ins at 535 Marmion Avenue.

“We are actively working with local agencies to gather and disseminate the latest information regarding this tragic situation,” the statement said. “Our teams are dedicated to providing timely updates and support to all those impacted.”

Western Reserve Transit Authority buses returned to service today after the explosion and road closures shut it down late Tuesday afternoon.

Pictured at top: From left are Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, fire Chief Barry Finley, and Charles Shasho, city deputy director of public works.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.