Robot and police remove grenade from Aurora Harbor dock; no one injured

Posted: Friday, March 24, 2006

Juneau police removed a hand grenade from the Aurora Harbor fuel dock on Thursday afternoon after a man found the device stashed in the bilge of his sailboat.

The harbor was closed for about three hours and the ramp near the harbormaster's office was blocked off, as police inspected and confiscated the device with the help of a robot.

No one was injured. The grenade had a training fuse mechanism, meaning it was originally a dummy. But the plug may have been tampered with, Lt. Walt Bowman said.

"There are enough questions about what exactly it is, whether somebody has fooled around with it or whether it's just rusty, that we treated it like a live grenade," Bowman said.

"There's some obstructions that we can't see through," he said. "That makes us unsure whether somebody has placed something (explosive) in there."

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The previous owner of the sailboat died about 18 months ago, Harbormaster Lou McCall said. The boat had been tied up at Aurora Harbor since then.

The new owner bought the boat two weeks ago at a sealed bid auction, McCall said. Because of poor weather, the owner didn't have a chance to move the boat from the harbor until Thursday.

The man was cleaning up the bilge just after noon Thursday, when he found an object wrapped in a plastic bag, McCall said. He opened the bag, discovered the grenade and placed it on the fuel dock's bull rail.

The man called police just after 1 p.m.

Police sent a remote-operated mobile device down the ramp to the dock to inspect the grenade and extract its serial numbers. Police relayed the code to a Fort Richardson explosives expert, who was able to determine that the device had a training fuse mechanism.

The grenade was placed in a blast-proof container and driven away just after 4 p.m. Police planned to consult with the U.S. Army to decide the best way to defuse the grenade, Bowman said.

"The owner of the boat picked it up and put it on the dock and it didn't go off, but the next time it could have," he said.

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