March 13, 2003
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Army detonates device on Antioch golf course

If you heard a rumor about the Antioch science department detonating an experiment on campus Monday night, or an earthquake shaking the village, or a plane causing a sonic boom over Yellow Springs, take note: it was not true.

Instead, a U.S. Army demolition team detonated a military training device on the Antioch golf course, after a Clark County resident turned it in to the Yellow Springs Police Department Monday night, March 10.

At about 8:30 p.m., a man living outside of town in Clark County went to the police station and reported that he had a Simulator Flash Artillery M-21 in his car. The man had watched a story on the television news earlier in the evening about a flash device being used to simulate a shell shot from a tank. The man realized he had one of these devices in his basement and was concerned that it might be explosive, interim Police Chief John Grote said Tuesday.

The device was a plastic cylinder about the size of a soda can, Grote said.

On duty at the time, Grote put the device in his car and drove “immediately” to the golf course.

The police dispatcher contacted Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where the Army 75th Ordnance Company, an explosive ordnance disposal unit, is based, and asked for assistance. Two demolition experts, Brian Mixon and Steve McClure, who are stationed in Detroit but are working at Wright-Patt for a month because the local unit is in Afghanistan, traveled to Yellow Springs to detonate the device.

Meanwhile, the Police Department contacted the Environmental Protection Agency to secure a permit to destroy the item, Grote said. Antioch College was also notified, he said.

Once at the golf course, the Army explosive experts wrapped the device in a pound and a quarter of C4 plastic explosive and placed it in the middle of the golf course. Officials cordoned off a 300-foot area. The Police Department stopped traffic around the area. Miami Township Fire-Rescue sent a fire engine and an ambulance to the site, “in case something goes wrong,” Fire Chief Colin Altman said.

And with a small crowd standing by, Jimmy Williams, associate dean of students, detonated the flash device at about 10:30 p.m.

The explosion, which left a two-foot deep crater in the golf course, was heard in several parts of town. The Police Department received between 20 and 30 calls after the detonation.

Grote said that it was necessary to detonate the device, even though it was late in the evening.

“It’s a safety issue,” he said, noting that he did not want to risk transporting the flash device back to Wright-Patt. “You have to make it go away as soon as possible.”

Mixon said that the device is fired by electricity and that “any kind of electricity could set if off.”

As of Tuesday, it was unclear why the Clark County resident had the device. These items are often “kept as war souvenirs,” Mixon said. The one detonated Monday “wasn’t too old” and may have been from the Gulf War or from “a range,” he said.

Grote said that the man had the device for about 10 years but “did not know what he had until he saw the news story.”

Mixon and Grote said that the device could have been harmful if it had gone off in someone’s hand.

This was not the first time something was detonated on the golf course. Altman said that about nine years ago, the Dayton bomb squad was called in to detonate picric acid, which can become volatile when it gets old, that was found at Antioch. A year later, the state fire marshal’s bomb squad detonated another batch of picric acid, Altman said.

—Robert Mihalek