Pine Bluff runner unharmed in Boston bombing


Pine Bluff resident Julie Bridgforth — the only Southeast Arkansas resident registered to run the Boston Marathon —and her husband, Bill, who was there as a spectator, were both uninjured in Monday’s bombings near the race’s finish line, according to sources close to the family.

Three people were killed in what authorities called a terrorist attack and dozens more were injured.

Julie Bridgforth was not finished with the race, according to the Boston Marathon website, when two explosions were heard near the finish line at Copley Square at about 2:50 p.m. Boston time.

Runners fell to the ground and one man walked away with clothes in tatters as white and orange fumes billowed into the air. Five unexploded devices were found, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing two people briefed on the investigation.

At least 128 people were hospitalized, including two children, and as many as eight were in critical condition, officials said. One of the dead was an 8-year-old boy, the Boston Globe reported.

“This is the sort of carnage you expect to see in war,” Alasdair Conn, chief of emergency services at Massachusetts General Hospital, where victims were taken, said at a news briefing.

According to the Boston Marathon website, Julie Bridgforth completed 40 of the 42.165 kilometers (26.2 miles) of the race in 4 hours, 17 minutes, 59 seconds at 2:59 p.m. Boston time.

David Bridgforth, Julie’s son, said shortly after news of the explosions broke that he had not heard from his mother. He was unsure whether she completed the race. But at about 4 p.m., a source close to the family said he had heard from Bill Bridgforth that both he and his wife were OK.

A message left on Julie Bridgforth’s cell phone was not immediately returned.

The nature of the explosions was not immediately known. Boston police have no suspects in custody, Commissioner Ed Davis said at a news briefing.

Authorities were questioning a foreigner with an expired student visa, though he isn’t a suspect or “person of interest,” said a federal law-enforcement official not authorized to speak because the investigation is continuing.

“We still do not know who did this or why,” President Barack Obama, said in a briefing at the White House. “Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”

The U.S. had no information that any foreign group was planning an attack, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Intelligence Committee.

“We’ve known for some time that a public event where there were a lot of people would be subject to this possibility,” she said.

Near the bombing scene, Dan O’Gara, who was working at Marathon Sports, a running store on Boylston Street, said three injured people were brought into the store with cuts on their arms and legs. Employees bandaged them with shirts.

“I took a peek out the window and I could see at least four or five people on the ground bleeding,” O’Gara said.

Julie Bridgforth, whose age is listed as 62, was among the third wave of runners in the marathon, according to a database of entrants on the marathon website. She reached the halfway point of the race in 2 hours, 7 minutes, 20 seconds, according to her athlete tracking details.

No other Southeast Arkansas residents were listed on the Boston Marathon website’s list of participants. A total of 37 Arkansans were participating in the race.

The blasts at the race, which attracts about 25,000 runners and 500,000 spectators each year, follow several bombing attempts since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a 21-year-old man from Bangladesh, pleaded guilty in February to planning to bomb the New York Federal Reserve last year. In 2010, Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life in prison for driving a car containing an explosive into New York’s Times Square, and Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty to supporting al-Qaida and plotting in 2009 to attack New York subways.

Nor was Monday’s attack the first bombing of a major U.S. sporting event.

A blast at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta on July 26, 1996, killed one person and injured more than 100. Eric Robert Rudolph, an anti-abortion activist, admitted detonating the 40-pound pipe bomb.

The Boston Marathon, first run in 1897, is considered the most prestigious in the U.S. and occurs every Patriot’s Day, a citywide holiday celebrating the first battles of the American Revolution. Its 26.2-mile course runs from Hopkinton to downtown Boston.

John Hanlon, a 38-year-old Dorchester, Mass., resident who was with his wife and two of their children near the finish line, said the blasts happened at about the “thickest time” for runners finishing the race. The elite athletes crossed the line hours earlier.

“People were screaming and grabbing their families and getting the hell out of there,” he said.

Walter Antos, of Boulder, Colo., said the explosion about a block away was “100 times louder than thunder.” Phil Kirkpatrick, a 59-year-old from Nashville, Tenn., was watching his girlfriend race when the explosions went off and saw a man with his foot blown off in a medical tent.

“I was crawling on the sidewalk, and my cell phone blew out of my hand,” he said.

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Information for this report was contributed by Amy Widner and I.C. Murrell of The Commercial staff and by Bloomberg News.