Local News

Authorities: Toxic chemical, not bomb, found in vehicle where man killed self

Posted March 12, 2015
Updated March 13, 2015

— Sampson County authorities found a toxic chemical inside a vehicle when a man committed suicide Thursday morning.

A bomb squad and hazmat teams were called to the site on U.S. Highway 701 south of Clinton because North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers feared a suspicious box in the vehicle could be a bomb.

Two troopers stopped to check on what they thought was a stranded motorist on northbound U.S. 701 at about 6:45 a.m. As they approached the 2012 Subaru station wagon, a man sitting in the front passenger seat made a threatening statement "about an unknown device that was in the vehicle," said Lt. Jeff Gordon, spokesman for the Highway Patrol.

The troopers backed off and secured the area while waiting for emergency responders to arrive. Later, authorities said, they found the man dead inside the vehicle of an apparent suicide. He was the only person in the vehicle.

A robot retrieved the box from the Subaru, and hazmat teams found hydrogen sulfide in the vehicle. Capt. Eric Pope of the Sampson County Sheriff's Office wouldn't say if the chemical was in the suspicious box.

"I can't comment on the location of the chemical . I know there was a box in the vehicle that caused concern. However, it was rendered safe by the bomb-disposal unit, so it was taken out of play at the time," Pope said.

Hydrogen sulfide gas, which smells like rotten eggs, is poisonous, corrosive, flammable and explosive, especially when in a confined space such as a vehicle.

Pope also declined to say how the man, who has been identified as Thomas Joseph Garner Jr., 38, of Wilmington, died, noting an autopsy would determine the cause of death.

U.S. 701 remained blocked in both directions near Boney Mill Road, about 6 miles south of Clinton, for about nine hours, and several nearby homes were evacuated.


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  • Fred Kozlof Mar 13, 2015
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    A tragic story in itself. But why did the road have to be closed for NINE hours?

  • Patrick Demby Mar 13, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    Simple mixture of household chemicals.

    A friend of mine did himself in the same way, this method is VERY popular in Japan.

  • Scott Wharton Mar 12, 2015
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    I', just curious where he obtained the chemical and what his inentions were, if he had any? Kinda strange, especially in a rather rural city/county.