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The Big Blast

the blast

On Saturday, October 24, 14 FIS students and 7 faculty members ventured to the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department Range to investigate a simulated bombing scene.

The event-filled weekend began on Friday night with a pre-blast lecture by First Sgt. Kevin Keplinger from the West Virginia State Police.  As a part of the Explosives Response Team, First Sgt. Keplinger has investigated many bombing/explosion scenes.  His lecture enlightened both students and faculty members about the different types of explosives and the importance of safety when handling explosives, the construction of bombs including IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), and some relevant casework.   He emphasized the importance of knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t know.  In these cases, it is of utmost importance to seek help if a questionable item or situation is encountered. 

On Saturday morning, students observed explosives in their stable state before watching demonstrations of the ignition of smokeless powder, ANFO, TNT, C4, and pentolite and taking note of the differences in sound, smoke, and thermal effect that characterizes each.  After these demonstrations, students investigated a mock bomb explosion scene that had been set up the day prior.  Students were split into four groups, each with a different function on scene.  The Investigation became more challenging when it began to rain.   The weather did not stop students from collecting important evidence including the power source, initiator, explosive, and switch of the device.  Professor Keith Morris noted that “searching for critical pieces of the explosive device in dense foliage proved especially challenging.  Students had to use their skills which they developed through their coursework to process the crime scene.”

During the next few weeks, students will analyze the evidence that was collected at the scene in the lab.  The main goals of this analysis are to identify the explosive that was used and to reassemble the device.  At the end of the semester, a complete debriefing presentation will be given by the students to the faculty and instructors.

Despite the cold and rainy weather, Korina Menking-Hoggatt, a first year graduate student, said, “The blast simulation was amazing. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday."

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