Science project leads to bomb scare

01/24/2013 12:21 AM

01/24/2013 12:27 AM

The Merced Police Department exploded a science project Wednesday morning outside Sequoia High School after the strange-looking object was left next to a trash can.

Officers responded to 18th and G streets at 7:50 a.m. after a school employee called to report a suspicious-looking device across the street.

Police officers looked at it through binoculars and thought it might have been an "improvised device," said Sgt. Bob Chapman.

It was a 2-liter plastic bottle wrapped in black duct tape with wires coming out of it, he said.

Officials blocked off traffic and evacuated the north side of the school, as well as people living in the 100 block of East 18th Street.

But after deploying a remote bomb squad robot and blowing up the item, officials determined that it was not an explosive device, said Sgt. Joe Weiss of the bomb squad.

Rather, he said, it was likely a "hydrogen generator" school science project. "We've actually dealt with this on a couple different occasions," Weiss said.

The Police Department has seen similar situations at area high schools and colleges, he said. "Over the years, we've dealt with one a year."

The street was deemed safe about 9:25 a.m. and students were allowed to return to class.

In addition to the bomb squad, fire and ambulance crews were on the scene. A school resource office, three uniformed officers and two supervisors also responded.

Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can reached at (209) 385-2486 or jsmith@mercedsunstar.com.

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