Firefighters were called to the school at about 8:31 a.m. Wednesday after a report of an explosion. The first firefighters to arrive discovered the smokestack explosion.
The smokestack – known on campus as the “Shot Tower” – was connected to the Allan Building, which is used by the maintenance department. There were some students and staff inside a nearby building at the time of the smokestack explosion.
Said Elise Armacost, a spokesperson with the Baltimore County Fire Department, “(The firefighters) found bricks strewn all throughout the vicinity, and that the top of the tower had been blown off.”
Two of the injured people – one contractor, and one student – were taken to a hospital; the third, another contractor, was treated at the scene. Officials said the contractors, who were inside the boiler room, suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The student suffered minor injuries when he was struck by debris.
McDonogh School is a private, college-preparatory school (co-ed PK-12) founded in 1873 in Owings Mills, about 13 miles northwest of Baltimore.
Falling bricks ‘scary’
Rachel Cardin, a reporter with WJZ-TV in Baltimore, spoke to students as they left school, including one who said he was injured. Jake Alecce told Cardin he was struck by falling debris but is OK and drove himself off-campus.
“Me and my friend were walking, and all of a sudden, we heard a really big bang,” said Alecce, who said he was hit by falling debris. “We looked up and saw the bricks coming down and we just started running the opposite way of the bricks. I’m lucky I got out. I got a little cut on my leg, but other than that, I’m OK. … It was just a scary experience. I’m glad I’m alright.”
Cardin spoke to another senior, Roc Damico, who said that if the smokestack explosion had happened any later in the day, many more people could have gotten hurt.
“The bricks just kind of fell and there was a big smoke cloud,” Damico said. “It just kind of blew away with the wind and everything. There were a couple of kids who had to run away from the bricks when it fell. It was pretty crazy.”
Statement from school
Although there was an explosion, officials said there was no fire. When crews arrived they marked out a collapse zone and determined no one was trapped and there were no additional victims. The fire department said collapse team personnel were evaluating the stability of the building.
In a statement on the school website, McDonogh School officials said the explosion happened while an outside contractor was working in the school’s boiler room.
“At approximately 8:30 a.m., an explosion occurred in the school’s boiler room while work was being performed by an outside contractor. The explosion caused a partial collapse of the adjacent smokestack.
“All students, faculty, and staff are safe. One student sustained a minor injury. The student was evaluated at a local hospital and released. Two outside contractors also sustained minor injuries, one of them was transported to a local hospital for evaluation as well.
“The area of the explosion has been cordoned off. While the campus was deemed safe by first responders, McDonogh decided to take the safest course of action and students were dismissed at 11:00 a.m. All afternoon and evening activities are canceled.
“We have contacted a structural engineer to assess the building and ensure that the surrounding area is safe.”