Last Updated: 12:06 p.m., Tuesday.
Tuesday update: The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office at noon today released details about the grenade incident at 2 Blare Drive on Monday evening. According to the police report, the house was vacant. Realtor Fanny Herrera was cleaning it up late Monday afternoon when she noticed the rusty pineapple hand grenade in a large knot hole in the oak tree on the right side of the house. She called authorities, who closed the area to traffic and established a 300-foot perimeter as they awaited the St. Johns County bomb squad.
Occupants at 8 Blare Drive were evacuated. There were no residents at 1 Blaine Drive, across the street from the yard with the grenade. While the bomb squad was working the scene, a Flagler County Sheriff’s Office deputy investigating the incident reached the previous renter, Jamie Banks, who, the deputy wrote in his report, “advised me that the grenade was a dummy and he had forgotten that it was left there after they had moved out.”
The grenade was removed by the bomb squad, photographs taken, and evacuees told they could return to their homes by 10 p.m., when roads were reopened.
Monday evening’s original story is below.
A section of the Woodlands in Palm Coast was shut down to traffic and cordoned off after 7 p.m. Monday evening when authorities responded to an incident involving a grenade in the yard of the house at 2 Blare Drive. Less than three hours later, the scene had been secured and roads re-opened.
The grenade turned out not to be armed, but was approached as if it were.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office was at the scene and called in the bomb squad from the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, which usually responds to incidents involving bombs in Flagler and St. Johns. The unit has a robot equipped to handle explosive materials.
“From what I gather they found a possible grenade,” Palm Coast Fire Chief Mike Beadle said this evening. “They’re closing down the street and bringing in the bomb unit.” Beadle said that from what he knew, the grenade was in the yard–in a tree–not inside the house, and that the pin was still in it.
The bomb squad arrived at 8:25 p.m.
A resident of the neighborhood, a couple of houses from the one in question, attempted to drive out of the neighborhood earlier, to make it to a sports practice, but was told to go back home. He was later told that authorities might be rerouting traffic out of Blyth Court and Oak Trail Boulevard to Black Alder Drive, and out of the Woodlands through Blakefield Drive or the northern portion of Blare Drive.
A sheriff’s spokesman could not be reached Monday evening.
Two neighborhood mothers and several children, all of whom take the school bus at the same street corner where the grenade was found, had gathered at Oak Trails and Bleau Court, several blocks down from the scene. Ellen Sperber, a teacher at Wadsworth Elementary who lives near the house in question, was at that corner with her two sons, unable to make it past the fire police’s roadblock and back to her home, where her daughter was. She was finally able to reach a neighbor by phone, who reassured her that her daughter was fine.
Sperber, whose sons are 13 and 11, was there with Colleen Brown, whose son is 8. Brown lives on Bleau Court, but her son is one of some 20 students who gather at the corner of Oak Trails and Blare Drive every morning to take the school bus. She was having trouble imagining what dangers the children might have been exposed to had they been near the device, though fortunately, Brown said, today was a day off for students (Flagler County schools were open for faculty and staff only). “But I wonder where this thing came from,” Brown said.
“That’s scary,” Sperber said. “I’ve lived here 15 years. I’ve never seen anything like this past year, where it seems everything is happening here.”
“It’s very frightening,” Brown said.
The women were not imagining things: their section of the Woodlands has indeed been active. Last May, the SWAT team was called in for a three-hour stand-off at 25 Blythe Place, just a few blocks away from the scene this evening, where a man had sequestered himself in the house and threatened to kill himself. The situation was resolved peacefully. Last October, at the very same corner of Blare Drive and Oak Trails, a 32-year-old resident of Blythe Place who was walking by there was jumped by a man and mugged. The assailant was reported to have pointed a silver revolver at the victim. He stole his wallet and $120 to $130 in cash.
“It’s very scary though,” Sperber continued, “because I raised my kids here and this isn’t something we ever had to worry about.”
The St. Johns bomb squad arrived equipped with “Frosty,” its a mechanized robot–actually, a Remotec Andros F6A–equipped with video cameras, sensors and mechanical arms, and able to see and sense various devices. (See the picture below.) It wasn’t clear, however, whether “Frosty,” as the bomb squad calls it (it’s named for the man who created the bomb squad in 1973), would be able to reach into the tree limbs where the grenade was believed to be located.
The overwhelming majority of calls to the bomb squad turn out not to involve actual explosive devices. In the squad’s experience, less than 0.4 percent of all calls involve an actual bomb. The grenade in this case may be an actual grenade–the kind found in military surplus stores–but not an armed one. Authorities could not, however, take a chance. That is, in fact, what turned out to be the case: the grenade was harmless.
Armed or not, it is the usual practice of the bomb squad to detonate the device inside a reinforced canister before proceeding with a fuller–and safer–analysis of its contents.
Curiously, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office had reported the incident, without elaborating, on its web site’s rolling calls for service log shortly after 7 p.m. No “type” of incident was given. The entry was then removed within minutes, even though, obviously, the incident was still live, and involved unites of the sheriff’s office and stand-by units of the Palm Coast Fire Department and Flagler County Fire Rescue.
The scene had been secured and the neighborhood was being reopened a little before 10 p.m.