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Local explosives expert talks pipe bombs

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- Tyler Bowers has dealt with pipe bombs and improvised explosive devices in the Middle East and here at home for the last decade.

He’s a member of the Indiana Army National Guard who has been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

As a current explosive ordnance clearance agent, he was able to weigh in on the five pipe bombs found throughout Michiana in the last week.

“They’re not necessarily designed to kill or maim or anything, they’re designed to disrupt,” Bowers said. “Whether it stops US forces – coalition movement – by blowing off a tire or sitting in a space – they ambush us, type of thing. I think around here, you don’t know if it’s just kids messing around; you don’t know if it’s somebody who’s literally trying to disrupt day-to-day operations of a city, of the community. I don’t know who’s behind it or what their thought process is, but it’s very disruptive.”

Even the threat of an explosive in a small package or letter can be disruptive – causing evacuations from buildings within 40-feet and any outdoor area within 900-feet.

Those numbers climb when you’re talking about a pipe bomb like the ones recently found in Michiana, including two found on Monday in Mishawaka.

Bowers said pipe bombs can be filled with different types of explosives, ranging from black powder to gun powder and more.

Because of this, he said you should stay far away because it’s hard to tell how much damage one can do.

“If you actually see a device or something like that, definitely keep your distance,” Bowers said. “It’s the whole Homeland Security mantra – ‘If you see something, say something.’ Don’t try to approach it. Don’t try to take care of it yourself. It’s something I’m very comfortable with doing overseas with my resources. Here, I wouldn’t try it because I don’t have the resources I do overseas.”

Bowers also said it is possible for some type of chemical to be put into a pipe bomb that could get into the air if it were to explode. But he said that likely would not be a major threat because it wouldn’t disperse very well and the surrounding environment would likely knock out any of the effects.

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