By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Police were called to the Waiakea Intermediate School campus Monday morning after custodial staff found homemade bottle bombs there.
State Department of Education spokesman Alex Da Silva said the devices appeared to be soda bottles filled with Mentos candies, while police Lt. Melvin Yamamoto of Hilo Patrol said that police don’t know the chemicals that were in the plastic bottles.
Officers responding shortly after 8 a.m. to a call from school officials found two exploded bottles and another bottle ready to explode near Q Building. Officers safely discharged the previously unexploded bottle.
“It was just a small pop. It was already expanded and people had already handled it before we got there,” Yamamoto said.
No one was injured. Da Silva said that summer school classes were going on when the bottle bombs were found, but didn’t know if any buildings were evacuated. He said he “can’t remember the last time” any DOE campus had a similar on-campus scare.
“These (bottle bombs) have been going around for a while,” Da Silva said. “They’re like science experiments and they’ve been on YouTube for many years, but we haven’t had major problems with it.”
Police have opened an investigation into possession of prohibited weapons, which is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
A similar incident in which two bottle bombs exploded caused part of the University of Hawaii at Hilo campus to be evacuated on Dec. 18, 2008, during fall semester final exams.
An Army explosive ordnance disposal team from Ft. Shafter in Honolulu was flown in to remove “duds,” while a Fire Department hazardous materials unit mopped up the mess left by the blasts.
Police arrested Edward Emerson Wine II, then a 20-year-old UHH marine science major, and charged him with first-degree terroristic threatening. Wine admitted to fabricating the devices out of 1-liter plastic bottles, household chemicals and aluminum foil. Wine told authorities he was “restless” and “bored, looking for fun” and that he didn’t intend any harm.
In a deal with prosecutors, Wine pleaded guilty and was sentenced in July 2009 to a year in jail with all but 30 days suspended and five years probation. If he completes his probation without any further trouble with the law, Wine’s criminal record will be expunged.
Bottle bombs are not created equal, and some have caused serious injuries. An article in the Nov. 13, 2008, Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat reported that a 68-year-old woman picking up litter in that city’s Howarth Park suffered a broken finger and cuts to her face and neck, including an upper lip split to her nose, after a rigged soda bottle exploded in her hand.
Police urge the public not to touch or shake any plastic bottle they find, as bottle bombs — which are typically made of plastic bottles filled with ordinary household products — can explode when shaken.
Anyone with information about this incident to is asked to call the police non-emergency line at 935-3311. Those who prefer anonymity may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.
“We’re asking the public to call us if they know who did it or see anything on YouTube or anywhere,” Yamamoto said.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.