The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local news

May 4, 2007

Incendiary devices found near chemicals at Salt Plains dig area

JET — New evidence unearthed at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, where World War II-era chemical warfare training agents were discovered nearly two weeks ago, suggests Army officials attempted to destroy what they had buried.

U.S. Depart-ment of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Victoria Fox said Thursday 12 incendiary de-vices measuring a foot long were found at the site.

Authorities have found 130 glass vials of blistering solutions used in World War II chemical warfare training kits after a Bartlesville Boy Scout unearthed a vial on April 21.

“There was some evidence to suggest an attempt to destroy the vials in the same holey. But the fact the water table is so high, it didn’t work out,” Fox said.

The hole measured 31/2 feet deep during the initial dig when the vials were discovered.

An Army explosives ordnance disposal team from Texas arrived at the site — about a mile from the public entrance to the crystal digging site — Thursday. They took the incendiary devices and conducted their own successful explosion.

“They (incendiary devices) were taken two miles out on the Salt Plains in a safe area and exploded because they were unstable,” Fox said.

The crystal digging area, which encompasses approximately 40 acres of a 300-acre designated area for public exploration of salt crystals, has remained closed since the first vial was discovered.

The Boy Scout, digging for crystals, accidentally broke one of the vials, exposing him to a yellowish liquid inside. The boy started coughing, and the material made his eyes burn and his nose run, but he has suffered no lingering ill effects, officials said.

The area will remain closed until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes a safety assessment of the entire crystal digging site after the materials are removed, Fox said.

Refuge officials also are asking anyone who may have kept vials they found as souvenirs to contact local law enforcement.

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