Robot Probes Suspicious Package Found On Beach

Robot Probes Suspicious Package Found On Beach

OCEAN CITY – A bomb scare on the beach last Friday turned out to be a non-hazardous object but nonetheless protocol was followed and robotic equipment was deployed.

Around 6 p.m. last Friday the Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) called in a suspicious device to the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) and the resort’s Fire and Bomb Squad responded to the beach in the area between 122nd and 123rd streets.

OCBP had cleared a small perimeter when it found an object sitting on a wooden chair on the beach, and waited for the Fire and Bomb squad to arrive.

According to Deputy Chief David Hartley, when a suspicious object is found on the beach, OCBP follows protocol and contacts OCPD, who then follows through with a threat assessment. If OCPD is uncomfortable with the object as well, that is when the Fire and Bomb Squad is called in.

When Deputy Fire Chief David Hartley received the call, he was downtown at a briefing for the Dew Tour. Upon receiving the call, the squad reached uptown quickly and released robotic equipment to get a look at the object from afar.

“We were able to determine with the robot that it was non-hazardous … if we sent the robot down and we couldn’t determine what it was, then we would elevate the concern from there,” he said.

Hartley is under the assumption the object was found and placed on the chair but once examining the concern closer the object turned out to what is believed to be a marine audio speaker. The section of the beach was closed for 25 minutes until the object was safely removed.

“That is something that most people wouldn’t identify quickly, and then being left unattended on a wooden chair, I think that was what raised suspicions from the beach patrol,” he said.

According to Hartley, bomb scares become more frequent in the resort during the summer months, particularly when tragic incidents are occurring nationally and internationally.

“People become more suspicious when there are a lot of things in the news. I would say two to three times a summer we end going to the beach whether it is an abandoned suitcase, backpack or cooler. We have been there for everything and we have had actual devices found on the beach as well,” he said.

In July 2009, a large section of the beach in Ocean City at 40th Street was evacuated when a private citizen uncovered what appeared to be a pipe bomb in the sand. The citizen reported the discovery to the OCBP, which then contacted the OCPD. The area was evacuated for about an hour while bomb squad technicians, using robotic equipment, removed the suspicious device from the beach.

Prior to that incident, a private citizen using a metal detector on the beach uncovered a homemade hand grenade of sorts buried in the sand at 103rd Street. During that same month, police served a warrant on a local resident at his home and discovered the makings of IEDs including plastic PVC pipes with fixed caps on the end including fuses, a gallon container of gunpowder and a spool of hobby fuses. The suspect had earlier threatened to blow up a vehicle.

In July of 2008, resort police found an IED in the form of a homemade hand grenade wrapped in black electrical tape in the center console of a vehicle they had been pulled over for a routine traffic stop. In December 2007, nearly 300 commercial grade fireworks were found on the beach just north of the Maryland line, the largest of which was over eight pounds.