Friday, June 5, 2009

Pipe bomb turns out to be pipe dream

Bomb squad finds non-explosive device in Sun Valley


Sun Valley Police Chief Cam Daggett looks over the object, the purpose of which remains a mystery. Both Daggett and Staff Sgt. Dan Lewin, commander of the Twin Falls bomb squad, donít believe it was a hoax. Photo by Jon Duval

An object believed to be a pipe bomb discovered in Sun Valley on Tuesday turned out to be infinitely less dangerous, but still puzzling.

The foot-long PVC cylinder contained no explosives, said Staff Sgt. Dan Lewin, commander of the Twin Falls Police Department bomb squad. Instead it held a metal rod, wrapped in fine red wire and encased in aluminum foil. A thin black wire, approximately 8 inches long, protruded from one end.

Construction workers found the object around 9 a.m. Tuesday during excavation for Sun Valley Resort's new White Clouds subdivision. The object was unearthed near the new White Clouds Golf Course just off Trail Creek Road.

Both the Sun Valley Police and Fire departments responded to the scene. Officers described the object as capped at both ends with what appeared to be a fuse sticking out of it.

Sun Valley Fire Chief Jeff Carnes contacted the Idaho Department of Homeland Security, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, and Blaine County Sheriff's Department Disaster Services Coordinator Chuck Turner, as is protocol for potential explosive devices. Four members of the Twin Falls bomb squad responded at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Using a special device, a member of the bomb squad was able to crack open the object's plastic casing. Lewin said it looked enough like a pipe bomb to forego an attempt to X-ray the object.

"It didn't contain any explosives," Lewin said. "It looked more like a home-science electromagnetic project."

Which is where it gets strange: Lewin said similar rod-and-wire objects have been found by other bomb squads around the country. According to the Benton County Daily Record of Arkansas, a PVC pipe that caused a 2005 bomb scare there contained crystals for removing impurities from water.

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Although his department is still investigating the nature of the object in Sun Valley, Lewin said he thinks it could possibly be some kind of holistic healing device.

"I didn't get the feeling this was a hoax," Lewin said. "Finding it there kind of makes sense with the excavation and the golf course—maybe someone was trying to heal the land."

Sun Valley Police Chief Cam Daggett said it looked manufactured rather than homemade and that it somewhat resembled a device used in an automatic gate system. Daggett sent photos of the object to repair and maintenance personnel at Sun Valley Resort in the hopes that they might recognize it.

"It's just a big mystery right now," Daggett said.

The object is in the possession of the Sun Valley Police Department, but Lewin said that it will probably make its way to Twin Falls where his bomb squad can keep it on file for future incidents.

In order to figure out its exact purpose, Lewin said he's hoping the creator will step forward with an explanation.

"The person would not get in trouble," Lewin said.

Jon Duval: jduval@mtexpress.com




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