'Bottle Bomb' Explodes at Temple Hills High School

By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Prince George's County high school student was charged with the manufacture and possession of a destructive device and reckless endangerment after a chemical "bottle bomb" he allegedly had built from instructions found on the Internet exploded in a classroom yesterday, a spokesman for the county sheriff's office said.

No one was hurt in the explosion, and damage to the classroom at Crossland High School in Temple Hills was minimal, authorities said. The 15-year-old student was not identified because he is a juvenile.

"There was a big boom, but the only cleanup they had to do was mopping the floor," said Sgt. Mario Ellis, spokesman for the sheriff's office. "We take it very seriously, and we're very lucky no one got hurt."

After the explosion, firefighters and hazardous-materials personnel kept the classroom clear for about an hour, authorities said.

Bottle bombs are typically made using a plastic bottle filled with a household cleaning chemical. To set off the bomb, an element is added that causes vapors to form inside the sealed bottle. When the pressure becomes too great, the bottle bursts. The effect is largely percussive, but the device can injure someone holding it or standing nearby.

Mark Brady, a spokesman for Prince George's fire department, said the student had built the bomb at home using directions he had found on the Web. Instructions for building the bombs are widely available on the Internet, and numerous YouTube videos depict their construction and use.

The boy attempted to set off the bomb in front of friends at a bus stop yesterday morning, but it did not detonate, Brady said. Thinking the bomb did not work, the student carried it to school in his backpack, where it suddenly exploded during his first-period class, Brady said.

The maximum penalty for the manufacture and possession of a destructive device is 25 years in jail.

"It doesn't appear there was any malice involved with this," Brady said, adding that, "by legal definition, it is an explosive device."

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