10/31/2007

Fla. bomb scare may have been part of man's costume

By Elaine Aradillas and Amy L. Edwards
The Orlando Sentinel

ST. CLOUD  A fake bomb that caused a scare at a construction site Monday may have been part of a man's party costume, officials said.

Osceola County authorities asked nearby residents to evacuate and closed a portion of U.S. Highway 192 for more than three hours while they investigated the device and found it to be harmless.

"Numerous staff, time and resources were spent investigating this false claim," said Twis Lizasuain, spokeswoman for the Osceola County Sheriff's Office. "It's frustrating because it takes away from real incidents and crimes that could be investigated."

A construction worker found the object, resembling sticks of dynamite connected to a timer, shortly after 8 a.m. at a road-widening project off Pine Grove Road and U.S. 192, authorities said. It was attached to a 30-foot gas line.

"That was the whole reason for the precaution," Lizasuain said. "It could have caused damage, not only there, but further down the line."

Shortly after 11 a.m., Osceola officials said someone called authorities and said he thought the package might have fallen out of his vehicle Saturday night as he was traveling down the highway on his way home from a party.

He was dressed as a terrorist, officials said, and the bomb was part of his costume.

Members from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI interviewed the Osceola resident for several hours before deciding there was no criminal intent.

The resident, in his 30s, has not been identified because the investigation is ongoing, Lizasuain said.

No charges have been filed against the man, she said.

The bomb squad from the Orange County Sheriff's Office was called to the scene and determined the package was not a bomb, officials said. The evacuation was voluntary and six residents left their homes during the incident.

Jerry Williams, who lives in and owns the nearby Colonial Motel and Apartments on U.S. 192, said the incident gave him a scare.

Williams said a construction worker drove into the motel parking lot and said they found what looked like a bomb attached to a gas line.

"It's something you wouldn't expect to happen here in your backyard," Williams said. "We got a little panicked from there."

Copyright 2007 Orlando Sentinel

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