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www.wmfd.com - The pressure cooker bombs used in last week's Boston Marathon attack are underscoring the danger of improvised explosive devices. }}" />

An Up-Close Look At A Pressure Cooker Bomb Blast

Story By: Larry Stine



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  Original Published: 4/23/2013 The pressure cooker bombs used in last week's Boston Marathon attack are underscoring the danger of improvised explosive devices.   They're cheap, easy to transport, and tough for police to find.   And David Mattingly learned just how simple it is to build and detonate one of these deadly weapons.   At this remote, desert testing ground, experts from New Mexico Tech replicate and explode bombs used by terrorists.   On this day, there's a sense of urgency.   "After Boston, what are you worried about? Could this be the future of domestic terrorism?" asked David Mattingly.   "Well, you're always worried about copycats. Are more and more people going to be using this?" commented Van Romero, vice president of New Mexico Tech.   "This" is a pressure cooker bomb, similar to the bombs in Boston and we're about to set it off.    "Harry, going to do the countdown?" asked Romero.   In the wrong hands we already know how deadly this bomb can be. And we're not taking any chances.   "For safety reasons, we've had to retreat to this mountain top here," says Mattingly. "We are now over a quarter of a mile away from where we left that pressure cooker."   But that's still not far enough to avoid flying shrapnel.   So we're watching from inside a bunker.   Five, four, three, two, one (boom).   "Wow. That white smoke looks just like what we saw in Boston," Mattingly commented.   "Yep," replied Romero.   "I could feel it all the way up here," Mattingly said.   "Oh year, that shock wave will travel all the way," Romero said.   But down below, is the real shock.   "At this point we're looking for fragments," Romero said.   One bomb, turned into thousands of weapons, scattered more than 100 yards.   This was part of the pressure cooker, now mangled and razor-sharp.   "No wonder so many people got hurt," Mattingly said.   Instead of nails, we filled the pot with nuts from a hardware store. Shot out like bullets, they pierced plywood. Some even melted from the heat.   "Look at the back of it!" commented Mattingly. "How fast were these things moving when they went out of there?"   "They can travel a thousand, two thousand feet a second," Romero replied.   "A second? That's faster than sound," Mattingly said.   "Right. They'll move faster than the speed of sound. These things will actually get in front of the shock wave. And hit you before the pressure wave does," Romero said.   "You're hit before you even hear it?" asked Mattingly.   "That's right," Romero answered.   Here's what the blast looks like using a high-speed camera.   An intense ball of fire less than 20 feet across.   But watch the white rings on the desert floor. That's the shock wave.   Engineers studying this blast say there's a lesson in here for first responders.   "Let's say I'm a first responder. What do I need to be aware of when I come upon a scene like this?" asked Mattingly.   "There's a lot of shrapnel around, it's very hot, it's very sharp, you could easily cut yourself. There could be unexploded ordnance, parts of a bomb that didn't explode when it was supposed to explode. That could go off at anytime," Romero said.   But for potential bystanders, out of this demonstration, there are only words of caution.   By the time you hear the boom, you could already be hit.   Awareness of your surroundings could be the only defense.
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