Last month, bomb technicians in Los Angeles badly underestimated the weight of homemade fireworks when they exploded them in a containment chamber, resulting in a devastating explosion that injured 17 people and shook a neighborhood, according to the police chief.
The bomb squad was asked to remove approximately 40 “Coca-Cola can-sized” improvised explosive devices that were among the 32,000 pounds of fireworks illegally stored by a resident on June 30, authorities said. Officials attending the site opted to detonate the dangerous explosives since some of the fireworks were found to have “leaking material.” Bomb technicians thought they had stashed 16.5 pounds of explosives in the Total Containment Vessel, the bomb squad’s disposal truck, according to LAPD Chief Michel R. Moore, but an ATF National Response Team later discovered that the technicians had placed more than 42 pounds in the vehicle.
“We believe a human error went to the miscalculation of the amount of material going into that vessel,” Moore said Monday. “It’s believed that the net explosive weight placed into the TCV exceeded its rated capacity.”
Five members of the bomb squad were “removed from the field,” as a result of the incident, which the police chief described as “a total catastrophic failure of that containment vehicle,” Moore said. Within the next 30 to 60 days, an investigation should be completed. Moore stated that the bomb disposal truck had been used 41 times before June 30 and that no concerns or malfunctions had been reported.
The blast did not cause life-threatening injuries to the 10 law enforcement officers and seven injured residents. However, according to police, the explosion damaged or destroyed 37 vehicles, 22 residential properties, and 13 businesses, in addition to the injuries.
According to the Justice Department, Arturo Ceja III, 26, was detained on suspicion of having a destructive device and was charged federally with transporting explosives without a license. As a result, Ceja could be sentenced to up to ten years in federal prison under federal law.
Ceja was released on $500,000 bail earlier this month and is scheduled to appear in court again in October. It’s unknown whether he’s represented by an attorney.
Following an early-morning tip, police had spent the day disposing of thousands of pounds of commercial-grade explosives discovered in a South Los Angeles home. Those fireworks were set off at a different location.
However, officers discovered leaking homemade fireworks, which the bomb squad opted to detonate in the area since they were too unstable to move elsewhere. They examined them using X-rays and robotics before loading them into the total containment tank, also known as a detonation chamber.
The bomb technicians calculated the weight of the handmade explosives and a counter-charge to be around 16.5 pounds (7.48 kilograms) without using a scale, as allowed by Los Angeles police procedures.
The weight of the remains was estimated to be more than 42 pounds (19 kilograms) by federal officials who weighed them after the detonation.
Moore stated that the maximum capacity of the detonation chamber is 25 pounds (11 kilograms).
The huge explosion blew out windows in surrounding buildings, flung debris into the air and street, and displaced dozens of people from their homes. Following the explosion, at least 50 people required hotel accommodation, and Los Angeles City Council member Curren D. Price Jr. (D) has advocated for the city to pay victims.
“We’re talking about folks who are kind of struggling. They’ve got to get up and go to work every day and they don’t have their car or they can’t get access to their clothes or papers,” Price stated earlier this month to CBS Los Angeles “It’s a real disruption.”