A suspicious item reported at Turtleback Mountain turned out to be an explosive device.
An Orcas Island resident reported the unknown wires and electronics to the San Juan County Sheriff’s office at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 6. Photos and a description were sent to the Washington State Bomb Squad in Seattle. The squad traveled to the island to investigate the item which was determined to be an improvised explosive device. The mechanism, which had wires and a battery, was neutralized by the bomb squad at approximately 7 p.m.
According to Sheriff Ron Krebs, the incident is still under investigation. He said that a hiker found the device that appeared to have been purposefully placed at the location, but he was unable to verify whether it was on the trail or in the woods. The bomb squad took the evidence back to Seattle to examine it. There are currently no leads.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting the sheriff’s office with the investigation into the IED.
On Aug. 9, Krebs released the following statement:
There is an understandable and significant concern throughout the islands following the discovery on Monday, Aug. 6 of an IED on the San Juan County Land Bank Turtleback Mountain Preserve property on Orcas Island.
The ongoing investigation is being led by the ATF, with the support of the office of San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs. While some details of the incident and investigation will not be made public at this time, there are key messages that need to be shared with the community:
1. This was a confirmed explosive device with the potential to easily kill or injure someone.
2. The device was made from commercial grade explosives not readily available to the general public.
3. It is not known exactly how long the device was in place or what the likelihood is of other devices. There is no known motive at this time, nor are there any suspects. As a result of the potentially severe impact of this device, and the uncertainty surrounding who placed it, the Orcas Island community is urged to keep the following in mind:
1. Please be aware, alert and vigilant when walking the trails on island public lands. Look forward, and look for materials that look unnatural or out of place. Keep kids and pets close at hand. Please report anything suspicious to 911 immediately. DO NOT TOUCH or MOVE anything that looks suspicious.
2. Please report to the Sheriff’s Office information about anyone who has access to or possession of illegally held commercial grade explosives. Sheriff’s Anonymous Tip Line is 360-370-7629. Likewise, if you know of anyone who has taken an interest in explosives, or seems like they could be connected to this incident, please report it immediately.
3. Please report any instances of loud explosions, either currently or in the past, or sites in the woods or elsewhere that appear to be the location of an explosion or detonation.
Again, the Sheriff’s Anonymous Tip Line is 360-370-7629. Sheriff Ron Krebs would like to highlight that the investigation of this disturbing incident will benefit from the attention and knowledge of the entire island community. If you think you have an important piece of information, please share it immediately.