Witness to Nashville blast 'extraordinarily lucky' after leaving building minutes before explosion

FOX 13's Evan Axelbank interviewed Chris Hegarty, a former Tampa resident and longtime employee at FOX 13, after Hegarty witnessed the Christmas morning explosion in Nashville, Tennessee.

On a drive from Omaha, Nebraska to Tampa, Florida, Chris Hegarty rented an Airbnb apartment in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, just off Broadway and 3rd Avenue S.

Christmas morning, Hegarty woke up early -- 6:30 a.m. Central Standard Time -- to continue his drive south, but just as he got into his car and shut the door, an explosion shattered windows, destroyed cars, and blasted lighted signs.

Hegarty got back out of his vehicle and started recording.

"So yeah, I am a little freaked out right now," he said on a video posted to Twitter. "I wasn't in my car for a minute when the building next to it exploded."

One street south from the building where he stayed the night before, a recreational vehicle exploded. Investigators were piecing together what might have happened, but one thing seemed certain: it was a planned explosion.

Downtown Nashville explosion aftermath.

From video courtesy: @DJ_PAPA_SMURF via Storyful

Witnesses reported hearing a loud audio recording near the RV, saying an explosion was imminent.

"I did hear that mechanical voice some people have been talking about," Hegarty recalled.

From video courtesy: Buck McCoy via Storyful

He said he could not make out what the voice was saying.

"The corner of the building was between the explosion and my car," he said. "So I did not feel any of the blast. But when I got out, I could see all the windows and doors in buildings nearby had been blown out."

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As police swarmed, Hegarty began to realize how close he came to a different outcome.

What if he'd chosen a different parking space? What if he was still in the building, whose other side was closer to the explosion?

"I have had a lot of 'what-ifs' going through my mind all day long," he said. "I can't shake this feeling that I got very, very lucky."

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After giving the video to local news crews, Hegarty hit the road for Tampa, with more time to think about the destruction this caused.

"I can't make sense of who would do something like this, why they would do it on a day like this?" Hegarty wondered.

He notes plenty is lost, nonetheless.

"I got extraordinarily lucky," he said. "I am OK. But for so many other people, this has been an unimaginably awful day."