Homemade ‘MacGyver’ Bomb Found Near Playground at Robert Frost School

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View Mount Prospect Crime 2009 in a larger satellite view near Robert Frost Elementary School.

Mount Prospect police officers were called to the scene about 11:50 a.m. Tuesday for a suspicious device that turned out to be a homemade chemical bomb found near a basketball court and playground at Robert Frost Elementary School, 1308 South Cypress Drive in Mount Prospect.

At about 12:15 p.m. Mount Prospect police officers called firefighters to the scene to vent the device, which was described as a MacGyver Bomb or Drano Bomb. The Mount Prospect Fire Department committed to a HazMat Level I response.

Homemade chemical bombs are typically made with toilet bowl cleaner or drain cleaner and aluminum foil in a capped plastic bottle, such as a plastic pop bottle. Shaking the contents in a capped bottle accelerates the reaction of the aluminum foil with the chemical of the cleaner, which causes a heat or exothermic reaction and pressurizes the interior of the bottle until it explodes. The speed of the chemical reaction is unpredictable, so a person can be injured while shaking the bottle if the reaction goes fast. Serious personal injuries are possible: chemical burns to the eyes, blindness, chemical burns of the skin (causing scarring), small blast injury to the skin, projectile injury from broken pieces of the bottle or the bottle cap. Chlorine gas can also be released, which can cause respiratory irritation.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)’s Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance (HSEES) System Report
Injuries listed in a Centers for Disease Control report covering January 1996 to March 2003 included the following:

Low to medium exposure to sodium hypochlorite, such as that found in bleach, can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory and gastrointestinal tract. High levels can result in severe corrosive damage to the eyes, skin, and respiratory and gastrointestinal tissues and can be fatal. Exposure to other bottle bomb chemicals such as hydrochloric acid can cause irritation to the nose, throat, and larynx; cough; choking; dermatitis; eye and skin burns; laryngeal spasm; and pulmonary edema.

During January 1, 1993–March 31, 2003, a total of 29 HCB events were reported to HSEES. All 29 events occurred during 1996–2003; a total of 24 (83%) of these occurred during 2000–2003. The 29 HCB events were reported from six states (Alabama [one], Iowa [one], New York [six], Rhode Island [two], Washington [14], and Wisconsin [five]). Explosions occurred in 24 (83%) of these events; five (17%) involved failed explosions. Three (10%) of the 29 HCB events resulted in injury to 26 persons.

Mount Prospect police are investigating. If the homemade bomb did not detonate and was just sitting in the playground area, it is possible that it was set there with the malicious intention of having an innocent person pick up the bottle and shake it, and have it detonate while being held. Or someone could have prepared the bottle, only to flee before shaking it because responsible individuals approached the area before the offenders had the chance to shake the bottle. Anyone with information about the homemade chemical bomb is asked to Mount Prospect Police Department at 847-870-5656.

The homemade chemical bomb has the name ‘MacGyver Bomb’ because of the connection with the type of improvisation that television character MacGyver employed in his resourcefulness and his knowledge of chemistry, physics, technology to resolve situations in the action/adventure television series known as MacGyver.

Video of Drano Bomb or MacGyver Bomb: Risky behavior, especially without protective gear — safety goggles, skin protection, etc. A premature detonation can cause hot alkali burns to skin and eyes and trauma from flying projectiles.

How to recognize a homemade chemical bomb?
Persons who observe suspicious activity or an unusual item, such as a bottle filled with a white or gray liquid with a possible cloudy appearance, should notify school officials or law enforcement officers. If a suspected or actual bottle bomb is discovered, the surrounding area should be evacuated immediately (to a minimum of 200 feet from the device), and local law enforcement should be notified. Only trained bomb squad personnel with protective gear should approach, handle, or attempt to neutralize these devices. Teens have been known to improvise by mixing the chemicals inside other containers, which is a concern because heavier fragments could cause more injury than plastic bottle fragments.

View Mount Prospect Crime 2009 in a larger map near Robert Frost Elementary School.

See also …
CDC MMWR: Homemade Chemical Bomb Events and Resulting Injuries — Selected States, January 1996–March 2003

emedicine.com: Burns, Chemical

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