By Renss Greene & Danielle Nadler
County and school leaders are calling on the federal agency that left explosive material on a Loudoun school bus as part of a training exercise to be more careful.
Mechanics at the county school system’s transportation center discovered the plastic explosive C-4 in the undercarriage of a school bus Wednesday, according to county Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling).
The bus carrying the explosive material transported 26 students, Wayde Byard public information officer for Loudoun County Public Schools said Wednesday. He said the material was explosive, but there was no detonator attached and the material could not be detonated by normal activity.
Children were not believed to be in danger, he said.
C-4 will only explode when subjected to a combination of extreme heat and a shockwave caused by a detonator.
Byard said the bus had been in service twice, on Monday and Tuesday, since the material was placed aboard last weekend. The bus transported 26 children from Pinebrook and Buffalo Trail elementary schools and Rock Ridge High School in Brambleton. The school system sent an email to parents of affected students explaining the situation. Principals also called some of the students who’d ridden the bus, according to social media.
School Board member Beth Huck (At Large) said the school system should look at its policy or procedure that gives agencies permission to use its facilities for training.
“If that’s something that we allow on occasion, regardless of how often, we need to have procedures in place to make sure the buses and schools are safe before they’re used again,” she said. “It sounds like that didn’t happen.”
School Board member Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge), who represents part of Brambleton, said she has not heard from parents concerned about their children’s safety but saw a few comments on social media.
“I think the concerns are being addressed with the explanations in the letters being sent home,” she said. “As a board we haven’t received any information that made us concerned that there was any danger to the children.”
Saines commended the school system’s mechanics for seeing the C-4, and immediately calling law enforcement Wednesday afternoon.
Several agencies responded to the scene, including a vehicle identified as part of the National Capital Regional Bomb Squad. As a precaution, the area and other buses were searched.
“This was nobody’s fault from the county, the schools or the sheriff’s office. And kudos to our staff who recognized it,” Saines said.
He recognized that the students and driver were likely not in any danger, but said the federal agency that held the training needs to tighten its training procedures.
“I hope whoever was doing the training exercise looks at their processes and procedures to make sure when they’re doing a training exercise, they clean up all of their materials,” Saines said.
The Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office is continuing to investigate the incident.