Police investigating explosions in Nanaimo

NANAIMO – RCMP looking for maker of several homemade explosive devices set off in wooded area.

An explosion that shook the ground and was louder than someone shooting a shotgun beside you is how Steve Woods, a Rosstown Road resident, described an explosion that prompted him to call the police Tuesday.

The explosion, which occurred at about 4:30 p.m. in a heavily wooded area near Woods’s home, was the most recent of several explosions that have been heard in the area, bordered by Coal Tyee Elementary School, the Esso gas station on Northfield Road and Rosstown Road, since the beginning of May.

Woods said the previous explosions were like large firecrackers going off, but Tuesday’s was much louder.

“I was standing in the driveway and it went off and I could feel it in my chest, it was that loud,” Woods said.

The location of the explosion was about a 20-minute walk through the bush from his residence. Woods saw a large cloud of blue smoke billow above the trees he estimated to be at least 30 metres tall.

“It was a hundred times louder,” Woods said. “I’m serious and not even exaggerating, it was that loud.”

Police are investigating who is behind building the device, which they described to Woods as some kind of homemade grenade.

Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said the area is heavily used by mountain bikers, hikers, homeless people who camp out there and school children going to and from school.

“We found a guy who was camping in the area and he said the ground trembled,” he said, adding police determined he was not involved with the explosions.

A witness told officers the explosions started near the beginning of May and there have been at least four explosions prior to the most recent one. The explosions have all occurred in the same general area and happen in either early morning or evening.

Investigators using a tracking dog found the site of the most recent explosion and remains of an explosive device near a well-worn trail.

O’Brien said the explosions were possibly caused by homemade pipe bombs.

Officers seized a small pipe, some aluminum foil and wrapping materials.

The previous, less violent explosions were not reported to police.

“Based on the description of this last explosion and what was found at the scene, there was potential for serious bodily harm to anyone who was nearby when the device exploded,” O’Brien said.

Anyone with information on these explosions is asked to contact the Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.