400 Lbs. Of WW II Bombs Found At School

Map showing details of former Pinecastle Jeep Range in Orange County. The yellow circles indicate where the bombing range targets are located. Odyssey Middle School is near the top. Army Corps of Engineers

This weekend the Army detonated more than 400 pounds of World War II-era bombs and munitions found on the grounds of a Central Florida middle school.

Forty-nine bombs, each about 23 pounds, as well as several rockets, a rocket booster and a cannon had been found buried near Odyssey Middle School since recovery efforts began Dec. 27.

Also found in one underground pit: an entire U.S. Army tank.

Army workers detonated the explosives in pits over the weekend in controlled explosions.

"This shows how urgent this is," said Orlando City Commissioner Phil Diamond. "I don't know if everyone has grasped the magnitude of this."

The area on which the school was built was used by the Army as a bombing range in the 1940s.

The Army Corps announced its cleanup of the old Pinecastle Jeep range area during the summer, when bomb fragments first turned up near the school. Extensive searches of the grounds with metal detectors were then scheduled while school was closed for holiday breaks.

Over Thanksgiving, 31 pounds of munitions (including rockets and a rifle grenade) were detonated. The search for munitions continued over the Christmas break, when more bombs were uncovered.

According to CBS affiliate WKMG correspondent Tiffany Tift, there are areas still left to be checked.

When the search is done, the Army Corps of Engineers will focus on neighborhoods surrounding Odyssey Middle School.

The search could take a year to complete, said Tift.

School leaders and Army officials said children at the school are safe.

"We won't allow anyone to do any digging," Orange County Public Schools representative Dylan Thomas said. "As long as no one does any digging here on the property, it is perfectly safe."

"I'm really uneasy about it," said Ralph Hazlett, whose granddaughter attends the school. "How can they dig this up and say she and all the kids are safe?"

In November, a nearby street was evacuated when a contractor uncovered a 23-pound bomb two feet underground in a lot near a vacant home.

The city of Orlando cancelled all building and construction permits and halted construction in the neighborhood last month.

Such problems are not limited to those atop the old Pinecastle Jeep range. Last month in Palm Coast, Fla. - more than 80 miles away - a rusted bomb was found in a vacant lot by a resident doing yard work. A police bomb squad detonated the device.
  • CBSNews

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