Pipe bomb found in Barnwell field; SLED agents neutralize it
Barnwell County Sheriff Ed Carroll said the device was found in a field off Forest Drive by farmers around 2 p.m.
Police are investigating to determine who built the bomb and why. No one was injured by the bomb, which was safely detonated.
"They were getting ready to plant watermelons," he said.
A sheriff's deputy who went to the scene to investigate was brought the device by one of the farmers. The deputy was standing in some woods adjacent to the field and quickly but carefully laid the device down in the woods and called in backup, Carroll said.
Sheriff's deputies and Barnwell city police blocked off access to Forest and Hutto Drives while determining the situation.
Two agents from the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division bomb squad were called to handle the device. The agents arrived a little before 3 p.m.
The device was a section of white PVC plastic pipe about 5 to 5.5 inches long and three-quarters of an inch in diameter. The pipe was packed with a "powder substance," Carroll said.
The SLED agents moved the device back into the field and set it in a furrow before detonating it with a blasting cap at about 3:23 p.m. The blast created a large cloud of white smoke that drifted over the field. Other than the SLED agents, authorities were held to about one-third of a mile from the scene until after the explosion.
Also on standby at the perimeter were a Barnwell Rural Fire Department fire engine and a Williston Rescue Squad ambulance. Timbo Williams, the Barnwell County fire coordinator and Roger Riley, the Barnwell County emergency management director.
Riley said he didn't know whether the device was made by people with some serious intent or just some children creating an extreme experiment.
Either way, such devices, when found, should be treated with caution as a serious and potential danger, he said.
Ironically, Riley had just been reading about homemade explosives before being called to this incident, he said.
Likewise, Carroll said he hasn't determined yet who built this device or whether it was made by children or someone with an evil intent, he said.
"I can't say. It could have been either way," Carroll said. "My concern is the damage it could have caused."
The last incident of a homemade explosive in the county was Feb. 17 when SLED agents used remote controlled robots to remove two pipe bombs from the home of David Ray Waddell in rural Williston. Waddell was charged with building those devices.
The two bomb incidents appear to be unrelated.
Carroll said the April 16 device was "not made with the components of the last one," he said, referring to the Feb. 17 pipe bombs.