The Mountain View Commons campus operated by the City of Port Townsend was closed for about three hours Friday, June 28, after an unexploded pipe bomb was brought to the police station. The device was safely disposed of and there were no injuries.
The metal pipe bomb was about 18 inches long and capped at both ends. No wires were protruding from the bomb. Preliminary examination of the device by Washington State Patrol’s bomb squad showed the pipe bomb contained explosives and was designed to throw shrapnel into the surrounding area when detonated. Bomb technicians used a controlled explosion to disarm the device.
The Port Townsend Police Department and other organizations based at Mountain View were evacuated shortly before 11 a.m. and area streets were closed. Mountain View also includes the city swimming pool, and temporarily houses the city library. Community service organizations like the YMCA, Red Cross, food bank, and KPTZ-FM radio also are housed at the complex, which until 2009 served as an elementary school. The public was allowed back into the area at 2 p.m.
A Port Townsend School District employee brought the bomb to the police department at approximately 10:45 a.m. The device had apparently been brought to Blue Heron Middle School in the 1990s by a student and given to a science teacher. It is unknown why the teacher at that time didn’t turn over the object to authorities or believe it was suspicious. Today a schools employee located the object while performing maintenance at the school. The pipe bomb was then brought to the police station to turn over. The schools employee left the pipe bomb in his truck parked outside the swimming pool. It was at that time that the Mountain View campus and surrounding area was secured due to safety concerns. Approximately 30 people, including children in attendance at the YMCA, were evacuated from the area.
While the pipe bomb sat dormant in storage for a number of years, moving the device or exposing it to temperature changes created a risk of upsetting volatile explosives. Additionally, radio signals from devices such as mobile phones can cause explosives to detonate in some circumstances. It is recommended that any suspicious device is left in place and the finder back away to a safe distance and call 9-1-1. Moving or handling any explosive is dangerous and can be fatal. In the case of the pipe bomb in question Thursday, a 200-foot safety zone from the object was recommended by investigators.
While the bomb squad investigated the pipe bomb in the truck it was discovered there were also hazardous materials such as mercury and acids inside that the schools employee was taking for disposal. An additional fear for public safety was that if the bomb exploded those chemicals would be dispersed into the air. After the bomb was destroyed, those chemicals were taken for disposal at the hazardous waste disposal facility at the Port of
The area of Blue Heron Middle School where the device and chemicals were found was searched to make sure no additional bombs or hazardous materials were stored there.
The Port Townsend Police Department recognizes the citizens evacuated from Mountain View and those inconvenienced by street closures, and greatly appreciates their support and cooperation. Response to this event was in accordance with best practices outlined by bomb disposal technicians and hazardous materials experts. It was the goal from the beginning of the incident to ensure that in the event of a device detonation no harm would come to any person.
Responding agencies to this incident included the Port Townsend Police Department, East Jefferson FireRescue, Washington State Patrol, Naval Magazine Indian Island fire department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, and United States Coast Guard.
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