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Scary contraption not explosive

A weird-looking device scares Pinellas Trail joggers off their stride Wednesday. After evacuating nearby residents, authorities say there's no danger.

[Times photo: Jim Damaske]
A Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office bomb squad backs away from a robot as a portable X-ray machine takes a picture of a suspicious device on the Pinellas Trail on Wednesday.

By JANE MEINHARDT

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2000


BELLEAIR -- Something that looked like a bomb left on the Pinellas Trail prompted authorities to evacuate some residents near Mehlenbacher Road on Wednesday. After two hours, bomb squad members determined it was not explosive.

Joggers discovered the suspicious-looking object about noon just north of Mehlenbacher and behind Bel-Forest Manor condominiums.

As a precaution, about eight people from the condominiums and nearby houses were asked to leave their homes.

Mehlenbacher Road and the Pinellas Trail were closed while the Hillsborough County Bomb Disposal Team examined and then removed the object.

"It's not an explosive device," said Belleair police Chief Mike Egger. "It had its own power supply and was very suspicious, but there was nothing explosive connected to it. With these kinds of things, you have to play it safe."

The object amounted to a CB radio, a car battery, something that emitted a sound and something wrapped in tape, all inside a blue, plastic milk crate, he said.

Detectives were still examining the device late Wednesday and trying to figure out why it was on the trail.

Bomb squad detectives maneuvered a robot down the trail to the crate. The robot slowly disengaged wires. A detective wearing a heavy protective suit then took X-rays of the device. X-rays showed circuit boards.

People who were evacuated milled around in a nearby parking lot, watching investigators and complaining about the heat.

"Well, I don't think anything is going to blow up my condo," said area resident Lynne Gaines.

"I think I'm going to the mall and shop for a while."

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