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Barrie bomb squad successfully 'defuses the situation'

'We don’t see a lot of this, but our officers were able to take that training and put it into practice and do what they do best,' says police official
An officer with the Barrie police department's explosive disposal checks a vehicle in an Anne Street parking lot, Wednesday morning, following an early morning bomb call. The vehicle in the background shows significant damage around its gas-cap area.

The blast involving an improvised explosive device (IED) in the parking lot of an Anne Street apartment complex in Barrie could have been “catastrophic," city police officials said Wednesday afternoon.

Barrie police communications co-ordinator Peter Leon said the first calls came in at 2:56 a.m., Sept. 27, about explosion in the area of 108A Anne St. N.

City police and firefighters rushed to the scene, located at the bottom of Anne Street near the bridge over Highway 400.  

"Upon arrival at the scene, it was obvious a vehicle had been subject to a detonation of sorts and an immediate search of the area revealed an unexploded (IED),” Leon said.

As a result, two residential buildings adjacent to the bomb scene were partially evacuated, with approximately 20 people being placed aboard a city transit bus and transported to a nearby community church. 

The initial explosion involved the vehicle occurred “in and around the gas tank area," Leon said.  

The SUV was parked in an open area and a nearby vehicle also sustained damage, he added. 

“For reasons unknown at this point, an IED did dislodge from the vehicle that was targeted and that was located a short distance away in a garden area," Leon said.

 After making those observations, he said the police department's explosive disposal unit was called.

"They (did) what they are trained to do each and every day. They moved in with the remote robot and they were able to remotely and safely detonate the (IED) without any injury or harm to any of the personnel or the public," he added. 

An unexploded piece of the IED was detonated at approximately 8:30 a.m. 

“There was a subsequent examination of that device," Leon said. "The investigation is presently being conducted by members of the Barrie Police Service criminal investigation division and the forensic identification unit is now on scene being assisted by members of the Ontario Provincial Police, who have members specifically trained in evidence allocation specific to this kind of occurrence."

Police are thanking the public for their understanding, noting officials did have a wide area identified as being part of the shelter in place.

“We understand the majority of people have co-operated and understood that what we were dealing with was a potentially very dangerous situation and something that could have caused serious injury or death to anyone,” Leon said. 

“We don’t see a lot of this, but our officers were able to take that training and put it into practice and do what they do best, and that is to defuse the situation," he added. "They had the potential for serious bodily harm or death to be brought upon an individual and nobody has been injured.”

The investigation is still in its early stages, added Leon, who was unable to comment on whether police had a suspect. However, he did note that detectives would enter the area as soon as it was safe to see if they could obtain any surveillance video of the area.

Barrie police are also asking anyone who may have been travelling in the area early this morning to check their dash-cam video and report any suspicious activity to city police or Crime Stoppers.

Given the location, including several nearby apartment buildings, a seniors residence, the Anne Street bridge, and Highway 400, Leon acknowledged the incident had the potential to be significantly worse.

“We know from watching the news and other world events where (IEDs) have been used, we know the damage they can cause. We are aware that death and destruction an IED can cause," he said. 

"Not knowing the dynamics of the construction of this device, you have to use extreme caution," Leon added. "This could have been a very significant, very different kind of an outcome if human life was in that parking lot area. We can only be grateful and thankful that at that time in the morning there was nobody coming or going, as they would have been a few hours later getting ready to go to work or school.”

Leon said police expect to reopen the roads in the area later this afternoon.

“Before the area is released back to the community, it will be checked numerous times (to ensure) that anything and everything required for the investigation has been located and that most importantly that those people can go to bed tonight knowing police did everything to ensure their safety," he said.