1st Avenue Reopens After Transformer Blows

Posted at 10:15 AM, May 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-27 20:38:01-04

Authorities have reopened a portion of 1st Avenue after it was closed due to an underground transformer that had blown.

The incident happened around 10 a.m. Friday. Officials said they had closed 1st Avenue between Church Street and Broadway.

"All we heard was this big kaboom! We thought it was a bomb," said one witness. "All you seen was black smoke and flames. I mean they were high as the sky."

According to Nashville Electric Service officials, a failed switch caused the electrical vault to explode not the transformer itself.

Emergency officials were on the scene in minutes. "One of our downtown bicycle officers reported hearing an explosion on 1st Avenue," Metro Police Lt. Ben Rogers said. 

Traffic was shut down as officials began their investigation. "Determined it was an NES electrical vault that had shorted out and exploded," said Rogers. 

No injuries were reported. Officials were on scene as those with NES worked in the area.

While no one was hurt, Friday's incident reminded everyone of a tragedy that happened nearly 20 years ago when an underground transformer exploded during construction on the NASCAR Cafe.

One man was critically burned, a couple from Washington suffered severe injuries. NES said a failed switch on the transformer caused that explosion as well.

With CMA fest around the corner and thousands of people expected downtown, NewsChannel 5 asked NES about its safety procedures.

In a statement a spokesperson said the underground vaults and manholes are meant to ensure the safety of everyone on the street and the equipment contained below street level is not a safety concern for pedestrians who are walking above.

It was little comfort for those who frequent the downtown area and saw what happened Friday morning. "Somebody is going to have to held accountable for what happened," said one man.