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Bomb squad demonstrates dangers of homemade explosives

Posted - Feb. 2, 2010 at 6:03 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Bottles, mailboxes and buckets were blown up in Salt Lake City Tuesday. Bomb squad technicians are trying to remind everyone how dangerous homemade explosives really are.

Last week, five young adults were arrested on felony charges after an officer caught them setting off homemade bombs on the West High School practice field.

"Our department received a lot of phone calls about [how] we were overreacting," said Salt Lake City Bomb Squad Cmdr. Carl Merino.

That prompted the bomb squad to plan a demonstration to show just how powerful homemade bombs can be. First, the officers and firefighters demonstrated the force that can come from items found in most households: cleaners, chemicals and dry ice.

The bombs destroyed a mailbox, a bucket and several bottles. Police said people make them just to have fun or play a prank, but the bombs are unpredictable. Often times, they go off before the creator has a chance to get away.

"We've had kids make them in the house -- thinking they would shake them up in the house and throw them out the door -- and have them go off right in the kitchen in their hands," said Sgt. Karl Merino, also with the Salt Lake City Bomb Squad.

Thirty to 50 times a year, the Salt Lake bomb squad gets called out for one of these explosives. The injuries they've seen are life-changing: everything from blown-off fingers to extreme burns; some have lost their hearing and eyesight.

It is now a second-degree felony simply to possess a homemade explosive device. That penalty is bumped up to a first-degree felony if it causes an injury, if you intend for it to cause an injury, or if it's around certain locations, such as a school.

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Story compiled with contributions from Jennifer Stagg and Paul Nelson.

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