EAST DONEGAL TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The ATF says exactly half of the dynamite originally reported stolen from a pipeline site in Lancaster County has been recovered.
Investigators are expected to continue to conduct interviews and determine if any additional explosives remain unaccounted for, or if they recovered them all on Friday.
Donald Robinson, Special Agent in Charge, said the explosives were discovered Friday afternoon by a person on a walking trail in Riverfront Park, near Vinegar Ferry Road and Old River Road in East Donegal Township. That’s not far from the pipeline site.
Robinson said it’s not clear whether more explosives are missing or if there was an error in the paperwork provided to the ATF.
“I don’t have a lot of confidence right now in the reliability of the records the inventory is based on,” he said.
Update: On Saturday an ATF representative said they are “increasingly confident” that the explosives recovered on Friday were the entirety of the stolen supply. From their investigation, the official said there are indications that the “original amount of explosives reported as stolen was erroneous.”
However, the spokesperson clarified that the investigation is still ongoing.
The cartridges of dynamite, as well as all of the missing blasting caps, were found in a creek, Robinson said. He said everything left in that location has been recovered.
Robinson said the investigation into who’s responsible for the theft continues.
“The fact that we’ve recovered some of this is great news, but we want to get a hold of the folks that stole it,” he said.
Robinson said the items were probably dumped in the last 24 to 48 hours. He’s asking members of the public to contact the ATF if they noticed anything unusual in the area in that period of time.
Stay with News 8 for the latest on this developing story.
More investigators join the search
Officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said there are as many as 50 federal agents on the case now. More agents were needed to interview the approximately 900 people who work at the site, the ATF said. The state police are also assisting.
Contracting company’s blasting permit suspended
The contracting company working at the site has had its blasting permit suspended.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection suspended the permit for Gregory General Contracting. All blasting authorized by the permit has stopped.
Officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the explosives should have been stored more securely, instead of just being locked in a trailer. The company could face fines or even criminal charges, according to the ATF.
The ATF told us it’s looking into concerns raised by employees about security at the site, including possible lapses near the trailer holding the explosives.
Investigators ruling nothing out
A state police helicopter circled the site Thursday and Friday morning as agents worked every possible angle.
Agency officials say they are working with the Department of Homeland Security in case this involves terrorism. They are also checking the explosives black market, investigating whether the theft could have been an inside job and looking into whether this could have involved opponents of the pipeline. They say they are ruling nothing out.
Agents have alerted commercial businesses that may need dynamite, but the ATF said it’s unlikely a reputable business would buy explosives from an unlicensed source.
The ATF is now offering a reward of $20,000 as they continue to investigate the theft. The previous reward was $10,000.
The ATF made the announcement Thursday morning as they ask for the public’s help.
“ATF has increased the reward to $20,000 for information that leads to the recovery of the stolen explosives and/or the arrest and conviction of those responsible,” reads a statement from the agency.
How to submit a tip:
– Call the ATF hotline at 1-888-ATF-BOMB (1-888-283-2662)
– Report online
– Email ATFtips@atf.gov
Theft worse than first thought
On Wednesday, the ATF revealed that more explosives were stolen than first thought. Investigators took a full inventory and discovered an additional case of dynamite was missing, bringing the total amount stolen to 704 pounds. The previous estimate was 640 pounds.
The ATF said 400 blasting caps were also taken.
The explosives were stored in a locked truck trailer left at the site on River Road in Marietta on Friday, according to the ATF. The work site security company discovered the theft Monday afternoon after noticing the trailer door was open and the locks were missing. The theft is thought to have occurred some time between Friday at 5 p.m. and Monday at 2 p.m.
Donald Robinson, Special Agent in Charge, said officials are concerned about who has the explosives.
“We want to get a hold of this stuff and get it back. In the hands of somebody that doesn’t know what they’re doing, they could hurt themselves. And more importantly, they could hurt somebody else,” Robinson said. “We’ve only seen 15 to 20 thefts of explosives across the country a year. So, luckily, it is fairly unusual. This is a large theft though that we are obviously concerned about.”
The ATF says it is working the case from the inside out, starting by interviewing workers at the site. They’re also looking for video. There are usually cameras at work sites like the one in Marietta. Investigators say there’s at least one camera, but it was too far away to catch anything. The ATF says security was on site but somehow missed the theft.
According to the ATF, 16 cases of dynamite were stolen, and each case weighs 40 pounds.
“It wasn’t one or two minutes on scene,” Robinson said. “It took a bit of time to get this stuff out of there.”
The ATF has received some tips, but officials say they need more.
Stealing or possessing stolen explosives is a federal crime that could come with 10 years in prison.
The ATF has strict regulations for securing explosives, including the types of locks that are used.
Here’s a summary from ATF.gov:
ATF suggests that any padlock securing an explosives magazine have an American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) rating of at least 5 for “forcing” and “surreptitious entry.” ASTM’s publication, F883-97 “Standard Performance Specifications for Padlocks,” describes and grades various levels of performance for padlocks. Having the appropriate padlock will prevent easy access to thieves and help to thwart break-ins and robberies.
The regulations generally require:
– Two mortise locks
– Two padlocks fastened in separate hasps and staples
– Padlocks must have at least five tumblers and a casehardened shackle of at least 3/8-inch diameter
– Padlocks must be protected with no less than ¼-inch steel hoods constructed so as to prevent sawing or lever actions on the locks, hasps, and staples
– 3-point lock
– Combination of mortise lock and padlock
– Mortise lock requiring two keys to open.