Bomb tinkerer could have caused greater tragedy

After inspecting the site of Sunday’s tragic explosion in the town of Saldus, caused when a 47-year old man fatally tried to take apart an antique munitions charge under his carport in a residential neighborhood, explosives experts told the local Skrunda Television news crew the accident could have been much worse.

Besides the shrapnel and bloodstains on the ground, the unpleasant scene where the man attempted to table-saw the charge in half revealed many more freely accessible explosive units lying around the premises. Police are trying to determine how and why the man managed to carry them to his home.

In any case, police and the explosives experts are unanimous in stressing that any unexploded charge is extremely dangerous and should not even be touched, let alone moved. The discovery of such objects must be reported to the authorities, they say.

The deceased bomb-collector had not previously come to the attention of local law enforcement, but was known to work in the forestry sector, where it is possible he was able to discover the war-era explosives left over in the since overgrown wooded wilderness of central western Kurzeme, which is full of such unexploded devices in places.

Kurzeme regional Saldus precinct police chief Indulis Blīgzna told Skrunda TV that a criminal investigation is ongoing. “Specialists in the neutralization of unexploded munitions put it bluntly – any charge was made to kill and they have no expiration date," he said.

Commander Aigars Pūce of the National Armed Forces Unexploded Munitions Neutralization Platoon added that the explosion could have done more damage than it did, fortunately (for all but the tinkerer himself) not detonating in an explosion, but quickly burning and blowing up in a nevertheless deadly way. “These charges don’t get old. They may visually appear old, but all of their mechanisms are intact and meant to keep working,” Pūce explained.

The house where the explosion happened was like a time bomb waiting to go off, say the experts. If the detonation had triggered any of the other devices collected by the man, the consequences could have been far more devastating.

 

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