A robotic deputy from the San Diego Sheriff's Bomb and Arson Unit took no chances with a suspicious parcel full of potentially exploding Mexican beans yesterday, blasting the package with a "cannon" in a "controlled explosion".
Local police spokesman Lieutenant Greg Koran told media that a postman making his rounds noticed that one of his packages was "ticking". He called the cops, who evacuated the area and requested aid from the Sheriff's department.
Specialist bomb-disposal deputies apparently removed the ticking death parcel from the postie's van and placed it in an open area. However, rather than any sort of limp dick pussyfooting such as might be employed by other EOD agencies, the Sheriff's men then deployed their robotic colleague to "blast open the package" with a "cannon". The tin cop's cannonade revealed that the parcel contained Mexican "jumping beans", legumes containing small moth larvae which writhe about when they get warm causing the beans to move.
Read the searing details from the San Diego Union-Tribune here. ®
We here on the Reg bomb-disposal desk, being former EOD operators ourselves, always get a mild chuckle when we see reporters describing EOD/IEDD disruptors as "cannons" or "water cannons". It is true that such weapons fire a jet of water, but they aren't anything like riot-control water cannon: disruptors use a propellant charge to shoot a volume of water into a target package almost instantaneously, so fast that any electrical firing circuit will have been smashed up and depowered before it can energise a detonator enough to trigger it. This means that boobytraps such as collapsing circuits, if present, will not work and allows the EOD operator to avoid being anywhere near the package when opening it up (though in some cases the disruptor may be placed manually on a stand rather than being mounted on a robot).
Unlike a water cannon, a disruptor would have fatal/very damaging effects on a human being if fired at close range. It's also important not to be standing near the rear of disruptors fired from non-fixed mounts, as they fly violently backward on going off.
We also get a bit of a chuckle from cases like this one where (usually) American EOD teams indulge in a bit of overkill and disrupt packages in circumstances where it would be perfectly safe to X-ray them. (A parcel which can survive the tender mercies of a normal postal service - and whose time of arrival, it having done so, is quite uncertain - is usually seen as safe to handle and X-ray.)
This particular case, with its ticking and potentially explosive Mexican legumes, reminds us of the exploding turnip menace in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a few years ago.