Three University athletic training students volunteering at the Boston Marathon with University professor Ray Castle were present during the deadly explosions Monday, and according to Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations Herb Vincent, all four made it to safety uninjured.
University first-year student Derek Carter, second-year student Brendan Jacob and third-year student Caitlyn McKinley were near the explosions when they occurred. Aside from them, a multitude of University students and people in the Baton Rouge area spent Monday trying to contact their family members and friends who live in or were visiting Boston at the time.
Around 2:50 p.m. EST, two explosions went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, which is held on Patriot’s Day each year.
As of Monday evening, three deaths were confirmed and injuries were continuing to mount, surpassing 140 at press time, according to official statements from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and law enforcement officials.
According to Vincent, Castle said he is unsure about air travel but is trying to find a way to get the group of students back to Baton Rouge and to their families.
Baton Rouge native Jonathan Tarajano attends Emerson College in Boston and was with his mother near the initial explosion and the second one that occurred moments later.
“We were on the sidewalk between the two of them,” Tarajano said over the phone Monday.
Tarajano said the first explosion sounded like a cannon blast, which he thought must have been a part of the ceremony at the marathon. After the second explosion, Tarajano said he knew he was in the middle of a bombing and needed to get to safety immediately.
“We saw the huge smoke cloud and dust from the first one — we were just in shock,” he said.
Tarajano and his mother were uninjured and didn’t have time to try to make sense of the situation, he said. The priority was getting out of the area as quickly as possible, which was chaotic amid the crowd and noise.
It seemed as if everyone was confused as people shouted and ran in every direction either searching for a way out or trying to get cell phone service to reach loved ones, he said.
Cell phone signals were disabled in Boston to prevent any further explosions that could have resulted via remote detonation.
Tarajano took his mother by the hand to flee to safety as fast as they could. He said he tried to avoid the subway and any other major landmarks that could have been another target.
Meanwhile, University mass communication fourth-year student Sydney Armstrong was visiting her family in Boston and was on the street that runs parallel to where the Tarajanos were when the explosions occurred.
Armstrong didn’t witness the explosion, but heard the blast, which she also described as sounding like a cannon.
Armstrong was accompanied by family members, and said they all thought the loud blasts were part of the festivities.
As people began running past Armstrong, she said she knew something was wrong.
“We were watching people, and they were crying and confused,” she said in a phone interview Monday.
Armstrong tried to make sense of the situation by checking social media sites like Twitter, but cellular services were completely shut off, she said.
It was only until Armstrong returned to where she was staying that she was able to watch the news on television to figure out what was happening.
In Baton Rouge, mechanical engineering third-year student Philip Kempainen continuously tried to contact his sister, University alumna Jessica Kempainen, and mother, Debbie Kempainen, who were in Boston on Monday.
His sister ran the marathon that morning, and Kempainen wasn’t sure if she and their mother were still near the scene when the bombs went off, he said.
“I was pretty upset until I got in touch with them,” he said.
Kempainen’s sister and mother left the crowded section of Boston before the bombs exploded, but were only steps away from the scene a few hours earlier.
University finance fourth-year student Harrison Breaud tried to contact family members from Baton Rouge who were present in Boston on Monday as well.
Breaud’s brother, University alumnus Hudson Breaud, lives in Boston and was a few blocks away from the explosions.
Hudson Breaud said he was confused as most were and when people began running away from the scene he fled to safety as well.
There were no confirmed suspects in the bombing as of Monday night, though two other explosive devices were found and dismantled.