Police say bombs found in W.Va. meant as pranks

August 30, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Three homemade chemical bombs that exploded in Martinsburg last week appear to have been pranks, police said.

Martinsburg City Police on Monday were still trying to figure out who made the bombs and set them in the parking lot of a Foxcroft Avenue restaurant and on the front lawn of a Martinsburg home.

No one was hurt when the bombs exploded, police said.

The first went off at 9:30 p.m. Aug. 26 in the parking lot of Fazoli's restaurant, followed a short time later by two explosions at a home in the 600 block of North High Street in Martinsburg, police said.

The bombs were made from two-liter soda bottle filled with aluminum foil and an unidentified liquid, Martinsburg Fire Chief Phil Martin said.


The liquid could have been some type of cleaning fluid but lab tests would be needed to confirm the exact nature of the substance, Martin said.

A chemical reaction between the foil and the liquid caused pressure to build up in the bottles until it reached a point where the bottles exploded, Martin said.

The absence of shrapnel in the bottles and the fact they were placed out in the open has led investigators to believe they were probably meant as jokes.

"It appears that nobody was out to hurt anyone with these," Martinsburg Detective Kevin Miller said.

While the bombs may not have been intended to hurt anyone, that does not mean the devices could not have injured someone, Miller said.

Debris from the explosions could have hit someone standing too close to the bottles, Miller said.

The unexpected noise of an explosion is also capable of sending someone into shock or causing a heart attack, Martin said.

"You can never say someone can't be hurt when something explodes," Martin said.

Police did not have any leads Monday on who might have made and set the bombs.

"We're not sure if it's kids but apparently these things are pretty easy to make," Miller said.

No more bombs had been reported to police since the Aug. 26 explosions, Miller said.

Criminal use of an explosive device is a felony, and a conviction on such a charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court.

Anyone with information about the bombs may call Martinsburg City Police at 1-304-264-2100.

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