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Experts Count 29 Explosives at Scrap Plant

Posted February 14, 2008
Updated February 15, 2008

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— Detonations of unexploded military ordnance found at a Raleigh scrap-metal recycling plant will continue Friday, and authorities said road closures and evacuations of nearby residences will continue indefinitely.

By Thursday night, munitions experts from Fort Bragg had found 29 explosives in bales of scrap metal at Raleigh Metals Recycling. Those explosives included three 90-millimeter rifle rounds and 18 anti-tank rockets.

A WRAL News team has counted 26 detonations since Tuesday night.

Jim Sughrue, spokesman for the Raleigh Police Department, said munitions that were the most easily reached were destroyed first, followed by devices found inside a hopper in the plant.

The Army experts began examining bales of scrap metal Thursday afternoon to determine if more devices had been compacted inside them, he said.

"Because they can't see everything in (the bales), it's impossible to know how many rounds there might be," Sughrue said. "There are too many variables and too many unknowns right now" to know when the process will end.

Another day of demolitions required police to close Garner Road again near the plant and to move nearby residents away, including those living in the Biltmore Hills apartment complex across from the plant, Sughrue said.

The apartment complex and other residences were evacuated Tuesday night. Residents were allowed back into their homes Wednesday night, then told they had to leave again Thursday morning, and Sughrue said the pattern would continue.

Resident Willis McClain said the indefinite movement has been hard on him and his 18-year-old daughter Alisha.

"Everybody don't have a place to go," McClain said. "Thank God I have family that was there for me and my daughter."

Raleigh Metals Recycling owner Greg Brown acknowledged the difficulties created by the road closure and evacuations, but said he will not push the Fort Bragg team to finish quickly its inspection and detonations.

"We're losing money. My neighbors, unfortunately, are losing money. But this is not a process that should be speeded up. It has to be done correctly," Brown said.

"These are very nasty weapons. Somehow or another, they didn't cause major damage," he said. "We're again thankful that no one was hurt terribly, because our people were wearing hard hats, and they were wearing goggles."

Two workers were injured Tuesday in an initial explosion at the plant and were treated and released at WakeMed. WRAL has learned that one lost hearing in his left ear.

After the initial explosion, authorities determined unexploded ordnance had gotten mixed into a batch of scrap metal being processed for recycling. The Army munitions experts decided it was safer to detonate the devices at the plant than to take them elsewhere.

Brown said someone sold a load of scrap metal to the plant last Thursday, and plant workers saw the shells but didn't recognize them as live ammunition. Raleigh Metals Recycling has a policy against accepting ammunition and other hazardous materials, he said.

The person's driver's license number and other information has been turned over to authorities. Raleigh Police Department investigators and agents with the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the case.

An Army source told WRAL that investigators are looking into the possibility that a "scrapper" took the munitions from a military base. Scrappers are people who trespass on bases to salvage material for resale.

State Department of Labor investigators began to interview plant workers Thursday as part of that agency's review of the incident.

Garner Road was expected to reopen between Rush Street and Newcombe Road at about 8 p.m. Thursday. Sughrue said it would be closed off at about 8 a.m. Friday, and drivers were advised to use alternate routes.

The Garner Road YMCA, located across from the plant, also will remain closed, officials said.

The American Red Cross is keeping a shelter at Garner United Methodist Church open for residents, and one person was staying there Thursday morning.


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  • Z Man Feb 15, 2008

    Hey districtadvocate... I propose the locals be charged a free for the entertainment. How often do you get to see and hear REAL fireworks?

    BTW - You need to get a job and contribute to society instead of bloodletting it!

  • Cable Feb 15, 2008

    OOoooo someone is in trouble

  • coolwill Feb 15, 2008

    There is no homeland security anywhere in the United States. So I wonder how much the director of home land no security makes?

  • irishale Feb 15, 2008

    The really disturbing part of all of this is how did the military allow live ammunition out into the 'public'? In the past year, there was a nuclear weapon inadvertently put on a plane flying in the US, now this... from a terrorism standpoint, this is a truly scary thing...

  • Garnerwolf1 Feb 15, 2008

    I continue to be amazed. At 5:25 last night I'm standing beside a school baseball field not far from the plant (much closer than Clayton). We didn't hear a thing. The sound must travel up and out. Hopefully all of this drama can be finalized shortly.

  • WHEEL Feb 15, 2008

    These anti-tank rounds or whatever seem to have come to this facility quite safely bouncing around in the back of a truck. Why not take them away the same way without all the Army and Police drama and disruption to peoples lives. Anyway, how do you force people to evacuate without declaring martial law.

  • PC is for Losers Feb 15, 2008

    Where is everybody supposed to take their stolen copper now?

  • coolwill Feb 14, 2008

    Look all, yes the people are inconvenience some of them have small kids and some are elderly and may be sick. This is not supposed to happen with the new home land security. Do you all remember that last year when the nuke that was on a military plane was flying over the United States? Someone has fallen down on their job and there should have been checks and balances to make sure this does not take place. Have any of you been in the military, do you remember what the checks and balances were just to get your weapon? The federal government is responsible for your safety and it all leads to the head guy who has not accomplished anything. If they can't secure the borders how do you expect them to make you safer? We can’t even keep classified info (lap top have been stolen) out of thieves hands, we don’t even encrypt the info on the lap tops. It seems to me we are becoming a third world country even with all of our technology.

  • Funky Neighbor LEE Feb 14, 2008

    It's 5:25pm, I live in Clayton and just heard one of those darn things go off. Man, that tank round would have done some damage.

    Raleigh has now been hit by more shells than it took during the Sherman's march through during the Civil War.

  • angora2 Feb 14, 2008

    This is a perfect opportunity for business travelers who have earned hotel points to donate a few to some of these folks. People who travel for a living rarely use their hotel points because when they're not traveling the last thing they want to do is stay in a hotel.