Homemade big bangs




Special Agent Dan Pillitiere has worked around bombs for 16 years.

The bomb-disposal expert, who was once in Dallas and is now with the Akron office of the FBI, said when dealing with homemade bombs made up of ordinary chemicals, nerves of steel and intense concentration are demanded.

Pillitiere, who was giving a demonstration of homemade devices to the Youngstown Police Department Bomb Squad and other law enforcement personnel Thursday at Gennaro Pavers, said bombs made with common household chemicals are much harder to disarm because the chemicals often are very unstable.

The devices can be disarmed, but it is very complicated.

Although several bomb squads — including Youngstown’s — use robots or other automated devices, sometimes someone needs to get up close and personal with one. And Pillitiere said that requires focusing like a laser beam.

“It’s not fun,” Pillitiere said. “You really have to think before you go through each step.”

Youngstown police Lt. Doug Bobovnyik, head of the bomb squad, said the object of the training was to show bomb squad members how the bombs are put together so they can get a better handle on dismantling them — and also what can happen if they explode. The training was being offered because bombs made of these chemicals are becoming more and more common across the country.

“It’s an emerging threat,” Pillitiere said.

Pillitiere and other FBI bomb squad members made bombs out of chemicals used to treat swimming pool water, break fluid, drain cleaner, powdered sugar and cold packs used to treat injuries or keep things cool in a cooler — all mixed together in common household items such as Tupperware containers.

“This is all stuff you can buy in the store,” Bobovnyik said.

Bomb squad members also were shown examples of hypergolic devices, or devices in which two types of common chemicals are mixed together to form intense heat and fire. Other devices they were shown could be detonated by a blasting cap. Although blasting caps are regulated, they can be made as well, Bobovnyik said.

Also detonated was regular dynamite and military-style C4 explosives to give a comparison of how regular explosives match up to the unconventional kind. For the most part, the unconventional explosives were a lot louder.

“You really can’t tell the difference,” Pillitiere said.

Pillitiere said the combinations of these chemicals have been known for more than 100 years, but they are never used in commercial or industrial demolition because they are more unstable than traditional explosives, which makes them harder to store and transport.

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