tampabay.com

Big bang could have been more than a theory

The old van was headed to the crusher. Gladly, its explosive cargo wouldn't be riding along.

By JONATHAN ABEL
Published March 2, 2007


SPRING HILL - If you've got a junker you want off your property, Paul Wyatt will take it away for free and sell it for scrap.

On Thursday, Wyatt was cleaning out a van he'd bought the other day, getting ready to take it to the crusher in Tampa, when he came across a hand grenade.

He was standing in his driveway at 12075 Fulmar Road, a few miles north of Spring Hill.

He picked up the grenade and examined it.

He read the serial number.

He noticed the pin.

"When it didn't say 'Made in China,' I set it on the ground," Wyatt recalled.

Then the 37-year-old Wyatt called his older brother who told him to call the authorities.

That was about 8:30 a.m.

Five hours later, after the Hernando Sheriff's Office had cordoned off the dirt road, and the Citrus Sheriff's Office had sent in its bomb squad, Wyatt found out he was right to be careful.

"That was the real deal, buddy," Hernando Sheriff's Sgt. Clayton Miller told him. "It looks like it was a Vietnam- or World War II-era grenade."

The Citrus bomb squad spirited the live grenade out of the county and destroyed it Thursday afternoon.

Hernando investigators are in the process of finding out where the weapon came from.

Meanwhile, Wyatt shook his head at the disaster averted.

"Another hour and that van was going to be in the crusher," he said. "That wouldn't have been good."

The grenade most likely would not have exploded in a compactor, however, according to Citrus Sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney, who consulted the department's bomb squad.

Nonetheless, it was a scary incident for the man who found the grenade, she said.

But no one was hurt.

Even as the caution tape was cut down and the crowd of emergency workers dispersed, there was still an urgency in the air.

It was getting on 1:30 p.m. and Wyatt's wife would be home soon.

He still hadn't told her.