McDonogh School closed early and canceled all after-school activities after an explosion Wednesday morning that injured a child and two outside contractors working on the school’s Owings Mills campus, the Baltimore County Fire Department said.
The student and one of the contractors were taken to a hospital, and all three had “minor, non life-threatening injuries,” Fire Department spokeswoman Elise Armacost said.
“While the campus has been deemed safe by the first responders, McDonogh has decided to take the safest course of action and dismiss students at 11:00 a.m.,” the school said in an announcement on its website. “All afternoon and evening activities are canceled.”
All students were accounted for following the explosion at about 8:30 a.m. in a boiler room that blew off the top part of the Allan Building’s smokestack, according to an email from a school spokeswoman to parents. The two contractors were servicing the boiler at the time of the explosion.
“There was an explosion in the boiler room and the top portion of the smokestack crumbled to the ground,” said Nina Sinnott, the school spokeswoman, in the email.
When firefighters arrived, they found that the top of the smoke stack, also known as the shot tower, crumbling and bricks strewn all about, Armacost said.
“They very quickly saw that there had been an explosion,” she said.
People in a nearby academic building heard a “very loud” noise and briefly locked down the building as a precaution, Armacost said.
The two adults who were injured were inside an adjacent building, she said, and the injured student was struck by a piece of debris. The fire department started clearing the scene around 9:45 a.m.
Fire department specialists began conducting a review of the stability of the area affected by the explosion around 9 a.m. The cause remains under investigation.
Roc Damico was a few academic buildings away, down in the basement, when he heard the “boom” noise.
“It was a scary experience,” said Damico, a senior. “Everyone was kind of distraught.”
Damico, 18, saw a big cloud of smoke and a ton of bricks on the ground, he said. He also heard about a few of his friends who had to run.
One of those friends was Jake Alecce, an 18-year-old senior who was walking with friends when they heard a loud bang and looked up and saw bricks falling.
Alecce was hit in the leg, but he said it was just a scrape.
“I’m lucky I got out,” Alecce.
Richie Nichols, a junior All-Metro midfielder on McDonogh’s boys soccer team, said he was about 25 yards away, walking from the school bus, when he saw the top of the smokestack move. Then he heard the explosion and saw bricks begin falling.
“The top of the smokestack just like dropped,” Nichols said. "It almost looked like a building collapsed, but it sounded like an explosion and it just like dropped the top section and crumbled off the thing. Bricks were just flying. It was just scary because I was so close.”
The Allan Building houses upper school classrooms, the administrative and business offices, college counseling, the Kiplinger Library, the technology department, middle school chorus and private music studios, according to McDonogh’s website.
McDonogh enrolls 1,409 students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade and employees about 190 full-time faculty members, according to the school’s website.
The institution, now one of the Baltimore area’s most prestigious and elite private schools, was founded in 1873 as a farm school for poor boys.
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Baltimore Sun reporter Glenn Graham contributed to this article.