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Bomb squad experts analyze fatal TRAX incident


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Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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DRAPER - Police shot and killed a man at the Gallivan Plaza TRAX station after he claimed to have a bomb in the backpack he was carrying. Police confirmed 39-year-old Anthony Mayhew did have an explosive device, and if that bomb had gone off, the result would have been devastating.

Bomb technicians from the Unified Fire Authority say it's not really the size of the bomb as much as what type of bomb it is. Even so, a bomb small enough to fit in a backpack could still do serious damage.

There's a reason the bomb technicians use a robot to help them examine a potential explosive.

"Every call, we treat it as a worst-case scenario," said Steve Ball, a bomb technician with the Unified Fire Bomb Squad.

Ball says you can't tell how dangerous a bomb is just by looking at its size.

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"Certainly a stick of dynamite does a lot of damage by itself," he said. "Homemade stuff, it depends on what they use and if there's a lot of shrapnel with it."

Officials have not specified what type of explosive devise Mayhew had in his backpack Thursday night, but with so many people, cars, glass windows and TRAX trains around, a well-made bomb could have done plenty of damage.

"It doesn't take a large amount of high explosives to do damage, property damage and injure or kill people," said bomb technician Mike Montmorency.

That's why bomb squad teams train constantly - they never know what they're dealing with right away. Sometimes explosive-sniffing dogs are used to find out if a bomb is even present. Technicians rely heavily on these dogs to save lives.


Every call we go on, we go under the premise that a bomb is a bomb until it's not a bomb.

–Mike Montmorency


"It gives us a sense of security when we know he's done his job and he's been able to clear an area for us," said Montmorency.

In the case of Thursday night, police had to believe the man when he said he had a bomb. The risk was just too great.

"You could have a pretty big blast radius and cause a lot of trauma," said Ball.

Montmorency says you just can't take any chances when it comes to bomb threats.

"Every call we go on, we go under the premise that a bomb is a bomb until it's not a bomb," he said.

Unified Fire's Bomb Squad was not involved in Thursday's operation, though they are all part of Utah's Bomb Squad Task Force. They train together and share techniques.

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Alex Cabrero

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