Bomb scare forces evacuations

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home Police Department and the Oregon Jamboree campground located around the station were partially evacuated Thursday afternoon, July 28, when part of a Vietnam-era cluster bomb used for training was brought to the station.

“About an hour and a half ago, an 18-year-old brought some form of explosive device to the Police Department,” said Gina Riley, community services officer, Thursday afternoon. He had found the device on trail system somewhere around the railroad tracks east of Foster School.

“On examination, it appeared it was some form of explosive device, so we took it out to our back lot and called the bomb squad,” Riley said. At about 2:30 p.m., the department evacuated offices facing the parking lot. Outside, the department evacuated a 250-foot to 300-foot radius based on the recommendation of the Oregon State Police bomb squad. OSP’s recommendation is based on the size of an explosive.

The campers cooperated and were understanding, Riley said.

Sweet Home Police Sgt. Jason Van Eck placed the device on the running board of the department’s incident command vehicle and photographed it.

He sent the photos to the OSP, which determined the device was military ordnance. OSP contacted the Air Force 142nd Fighter Wing’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, which responded from Portland.

The object was cylindrical, about two-thirds the size of a soda can, Van Eck said.

The EOD determined, based on the photos, that the device could have been one of three things, a dummy bomb, a bomb with a 300-foot kill radius based on line of sight or a bomb with a 2,000 kill radius based on line of sight, Van Eck said.

The EOD took x-ray images of the device to determine what it was, Van Eck said. “This was determined to be a training-style dummy round and not any type of live ordnance.”

The device is a submunition, one bomb of hundreds in a single cluster bomb, Van Eck said.

When the cluster bomb is dropped, the submunitions are deployed, Van Eck said. Small fins pop out as it falls nose downward, and the bomb arms. The bomb detonates when the cap in the nose hits the ground.

The EOD will send the round to be ground into dust, Van Eck said.

“(The EOD) had no problem with what we had done, and we acted the way we should have,” Van Eck said regarding the potential kill radius of the device.

The origin of the device remains unknown, Van Eck said. “They had no idea how it could have gotten into the area other than somebody at some point found it and left it there,” Van Eck said.

Van Eck and Riley wanted to emphasize that members of the public should not handle suspicious devices like this.

“They said this thing is very sensitive had it been live,” Van Eck said. “Any movement of the cap could have set it off.

“There is no way for the public and law enforcement to identify these items as live or inert. Leave them where they are, and we’ll respond. We’ll contact the necessary folks to come out.”