Sunday, January 13, 2008

Vandals sought in Newport News bombs

Rceived the following news article via email. It included no date nor original source citation or reference. Using the date of the email, I assume these incidents occurred the wekend of Jan. 5-6, 2008.

NEWPORT NEWS - Fire investigators and railroad authorities are searching for vandals they say planted two makeshift explosives on Newport News train tracks this weekend, a few blocks north of the city's Amtrak station.

Railroad workers spotted the first device around 3 p.m. Saturday on the tracks near North Avenue and Warwick Boulevard, behind the Hilton Shopping Center. After fire department workers removed it from the tracks, a second explosive appeared around 10 p.m., fire officials said.

At least one Amtrak passenger train and several freight trains were delayed as bomb squad workers removed and deactivated the devices, said Robert Sullivan, a spokesman for CSX, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company that owns the tracks and the freight trains that run on them. The tracks were reopened early Sunday morning.

The bombs were detonated safely before trains could hit them, and no one was injured.

"The devices appeared to be crudely built, and the work of vandals," Sullivan said.

Police blocked parts of North Avenue, east and west of the train tracks, Saturday afternoon.

Monica Long lives close enough to the tracks that her house rumbles when the trains go by. On Saturday, while the tracks were closed, it was the force of an explosive that rattled her home.

Long, 48 said she saw flames on the tracks after 10 p.m., then heard a boom that shook the house so much it made the dogs howl.

"It was a ball of fire," she said. "Like a big firecracker."

She called police, who said firefighters had detonated a pipe bomb.

Officials would not comment on how powerful the explosives were.

"All I can say is there's no threat to public safety right now," said Newport News Fire Department spokeswoman Dana Perry. "We rendered the devices safe and the rest is part of the investigation."

CSX investigators and the fire marshal's office are trying to find whoever is responsible for the explosives, Perry said.

CSX officials have been in touch with federal agents, said Sullivan, but he could not say whether they were doing their own investigation. Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not return phone calls on Monday.

This is the first time explosives have been planted on train tracks in Newport News, Sullivan said.

"Obviously, any act of vandalism or anything that might endanger the safety of the public or the trains is something we take very seriously," he said. "We're investigating, and we'll prosecute anyone connected to the incidents to the full extent of the law."