Bomb officers who detonated a massive cache of illegal fireworks in Southern California last month, causing a “catastrophic” explosion that injured 17 people – including nine officers and a federal agent – appear to have misjudged the amount of explosive material they exploded, authorities said Monday.
Los Angeles police officers believed they detonated about 16 pounds of material during the controlled explosion in a neighborhood June 30, LAPD chief Michel Moore told reporters.
But preliminary findings from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found they were likely to detonate more than 42 pounds of explosives, he said.
The device used for the controlled explosion, called a “total containment container”, was designed to withstand a maximum capacity of 25 pounds of C4 explosives, Moore said.
“We have erroneous calculations,” Moore said.
After established practice, officers did not weigh the explosives before detonating them because of how unstable they were, he said. Instead, they estimated the weight and used a remote robot and X-rays to examine the devices.
Among them were 280 M-80s and 44 units the size of a soda, he said, adding that officers also appear to have calculated the weight of the explosives they used to cause the controlled explosion. .
Moore said the ensuing explosion was “catastrophic” and caused 17 non-life-threatening injuries and damaged or destroyed 13 businesses, 22 homes and 37 cars.
“We are committed to identifying how this happened and ensuring that it never happens again,” he said.
A review of the bomb squad’s practices is being conducted, he said, and the officers involved and the supervisor were removed from the field. Moore said the apparent miscalculation was done in “good faith,” though he added that if “mistakes were made, I will hold individuals accountable.”
The controlled detonation took place after authorities found 32,000 pounds of illegal fireworks in the backyard of a home in south Los Angeles. The M-80s and other devices were placed in the containment container after investigators found they were too dangerous to remove.
The suspect, who is accused of buying the fireworks in Nevada and storing them at home, was charged earlier this month with a federal court for transporting explosives without a license.