The Oregon State Police are investigating a case of grenade fuses someone may have tossed into the Columbia River.
OSP explosive technicians warned if someone found the fuses they could explode, causing serious harm, the agency said in a news release Tuesday.
OSP said information from an ongoing investigation indicated on Saturday, Jan. 31, someone reportedly tossed a white plastic grocery bag containing 45 grenade fuses from the Interstate 82 bridge into the middle of the Columbia River.
The person wanted to dispose of the grenade fuses, the news release said, after another person brought the fuses to his work place in Hermiston to show them.
During a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, OSP Detective Dennis Wagner, a hazardous devices technician, said the fuses were probably stolen, but he couldn't disclose where from because of the ongoing investigation. He also said he couldn't get more specific about the Hermiston work area.
However, rumors recently have circulated that federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested two men at the Hinkle railroad yard near Hermiston for possessing explosive devices.
An e-mail about the missing grenade fuses also is circulating. A version of the e-mail came from a Roberta Kirk and says OSP and FBI served a search warrant Feb. 4. on a member of the National Guard in Hermiston who may have stolen 300 hand grenade fuses.
The e-mail also said the suspect is claiming he panicked and threw the fuses into the Columbia River from the I-82 bridge in a plastic Wal-Mart bag on Jan 1.
The East Oregonian sent an e-mail to the original sender, who didn't respond by press time this morning.
Authorities so far haven't confirmed any connection between the fuses and any incident at Hinkle or any incident involving a member of the National Guard.
The East Oregonian left a message with Nick Starcevic, Seattle-based public information officer with the BATF, but he didn't return a phone by press time. Zoe Richmond, director of media relations with Union Pacific Railroad, said she was looking into the matter but hasn't been able to substantiate anything.
Lt. Greg Hastings, OSP's public information officer, said he couldn't comment on the agency's investigation.
Wagner cautioned, though, there is a remote possibility someone may come across the disposed fuses and they may pose a significant danger. Wagner said the fuses are similar to a large blasting cap and could cause serious injury if people handled the devices.
"It could definitely do some damage to a hand," Wagner said, "even sever a finger or fingers."
Wagner added there are several kinds of grenade fuses, and some become inert in water. However, he said no one should take a chance and touch any fuses they may find.
"We rather have people err on the side of caution - we don't know for sure which type these were," he said.
Wagner said anyone who finds one of the grenade fuses should call the OSP Southern Command Center dispatch at 922-5751 and request the OSP Bomb Squad. Wagner also advised anyone should do the same any time they think they have found any type of explosive device.