UPDATED: Lower floors of downtown skyrise explode; 7 people injured, 2 are missing

Staff photo / Ed Runyan Youngstown firefighters can be seen sifting through the rubble Tuesday afternoon following an explosion at the Realty Tower building at the corner of Market and East Federal streets downtown. The cause is still under investigation, Youngstown fire Chief Barry Finley said. However, it is believed to have been caused by a gas leak,

YOUNGSTOWN — A huge explosion at the Realty Tower building at the corner of Market and East Federal Streets downtown injured seven people, with two other people missing, and put the structural integrity of the building in question, city officials said late Tuesday.

“As of now, there are no fatalities,” said Youngstown fire Chief Barry Finley, but a man and a woman have not been found. He thinks one is a Chase Bank employee. The first floor of the building houses a Chase Bank branch.

Rumors throughout the day were that a natural gas explosion caused the 2:45 p.m. explosion that could be felt in other downtown buildings. But Finley told a crowd of news media on the steps of the Mahoning County Courthouse at about 6:30 p.m. he does not know yet what caused the explosion.

“We know Dominion (Energy) is out here checking their lines,” he said of the natural gas company. “We have no idea what caused the explosion. We know there was an explosion, and we know it did a lot of damage to the bottom of the building.”

He said Dominion “is doing an assessment of all of their equipment, but right now all I know for sure is there was an explosion.”

Charles Shasho, Youngstown deputy director of public works, said he can see some fascia beams that could have lost structural integrity, but it will require the owners of the building to hire engineers to check that out in depth to know how serious the damage is to the building.

Finley said when firefighters arrived, they “went in the building, got everyone they could get out. (Emergency Medical Services) stood by, and anyone who was hurt or injured got taken to the hospital by EMS, and my firefighters went floor by floor, room by room, elevator by elevator, space by space, clearing that building to ensure that no one else was in the building and no one else was hurt.”

The people inside the Realty Tower building and the International Towers building next door were evacuated, but the International Towers residents were allowed to return to the building about 6:30 p.m.

Robin Lees, Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency director, was handling the evacuation part of the accident. The American Red Cross provided water and snacks to the people from International Towers with help from some volunteers who live in the building, which houses a large number of disabled people.

As for the Realty Towers, no one is going back inside that 13-story building for now, Finley said. The building has condominiums and apartments on the upper floors.

Shortly after the explosion, Jeff Magada, executive director of Flying HIGH Inc., a non-profit organization, said he stood up from his desk in a high rise across federal plaza from the Realty Towers and saw a cloud of dust rising up.

A surveillance video from across East Federal Street from the Realty Tower, 47 Federal Plaza Central, showed a powerful blast that threw objects into the street.

But it also blew out windows in the building across Federal Street, Magada said.

He and a man with emergency services training went to the intersection where the explosion happened and were going to head into the building to help, but first responders arrived about then, Magada said.

Magada said he heard hissing coming from the building and smelled natural gas.

He could see firefighters guiding one man out of the building who was looking for a way out and another person who appeared to have gone into the building’s basement. He saw a huge piece of concrete lifted up in the sidewalk area on East Federal Street alongside the building.

The entire first floor of the Federal Plaza side and East Federal side suffered extraordinary damage, the worst of it apparently near the northeast corner of the building, where the concrete heaved up.

Firefighters focused much of their attention in that area in the minutes after they arrived, moving two people out of the destruction of the first floor on gurneys.

Another man sat at the base of a monument on Federal Plaza in front of the exploded building with blood and dust on his face and people stopping to offer him water.


Chase moved in May 2021 to Realty Tower as it downsized its presence downtown.

Before the relocation, Chase had been for several years at 6 W. Federal St., then known as the Chase Building, on three floors, taking up 13,523 square feet.

The Realty location is 3,550 square feet in size and was the home of the Starting Lineup Barber Shop for five years.

Huntington Bank reduced its footprint in downtown Youngstown shortly after Chase’s decision.

The 104-year-old Realty Tower was the first building in downtown to offer upscale apartments, opening in 2009. The building has 23 apartments.

Management Parking LLC, a sister company of the Frangos Group, which developed the building, sold the property in June 2018 for $2 million to Yo Properties 47 LLC.

Yo Properties owns several downtown locations on Market, North Hazel, West Commerce, East Federal and East Boardman streets. They were all purchased in the past six years.

Frangos bought its first Youngstown property in 1998. During the early 2000s, it was considered downtown’s biggest landlord.

The company sold a dozen downtown buildings since then, including the Stambaugh Building, Erie Terminal Place, Wick Building and the former Chase Building.


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