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Scare in Lower Burrell ends safely: no bomb

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 12:06 p.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
An Allegheny County Bomb Squad member wearing a protective suit approaches a suspicious television tube in the parking lot of the Dollar Tree store in Lower Burrell on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispacth
An Allegheny County Bomb Squad member, wearing a protective suit, makes a final determination that a suspicious television tube in the parking lot of the Dollar Tree store in Lower Burrell was not a bomb on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, a day after the Boston Marathon bombing.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Lower Burrell Police and firefighters keep their distance from a television tube that was suspected of being a bomb in the parking lot of the Dollar Tree on Leechburg Road in Lower Burrell on Wednesday, April, 17, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Lower Burrell Police officer Gregg Dale, who discovered a suspicious television tube in the parking lot of the Dollar Tree store, tells Allegheny County Bomb Squad members about his findings on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
An old television tube sits in the parking lot of the Dollar Tree in Lower Burrell. It had tape wrapped around one end, protruding wires and its serial markings scratched off, which caused police to suspect it could be a bomb.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Lower Burrell Police Detective Sgt. Scott Cardenas carries away a television tube that was determined not to be a bomb in the parking lot of the Dollar Tree store in Lower Burrell on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.

A discarded TV picture tube left in a bag in the Dollar Tree parking lot in Burrell Plaza on Wednesday morning caused a nearly five-hour bomb scare in Lower Burrell.

The unwanted local drama happened on a day when federal officials said a deadly poison was mailed to the president and there were more scares in bomb-weary Boston.

The Lower Burrell scare was the third such incident of the morning for the Allegheny County Police bomb squad.

The incident ended just before 2 p.m. when an armored-clad bomb squad technician dramatically waived his arms back and forth like a baseball umpire waiving a runner “safe.”

“All clear. It's all clear,” said a relieved Lower Burrell police Chief Tim Weitzel.

The picture tube — old enough to weigh about 45 pounds but new enough to have a bar code strip on it — had at least one wire attached that struck police as being suspicious. But there were no explosives.

The incident started at about 9 a.m. when a Dollar Tree customer found the picture tube, police said.

The tube was in a parking space about 30 feet from the discount store off Leechburg Road.

At least one house nearest to it was evacuated.

Police were told the strangely out-of-place TV component apparently was left between 7:30 a.m. when one employee arrived and when the customer saw it.

The TV tube and wires looked suspicious enough for a police sergeant to take a cell-phone photo of it and send the image to bomb technicians to check.

Weitzel said police immediately cordoned off the area.

Lower Burrell and New Kensington firefighters, ambulance squads, constables rapidly arrived to help.

A fire engine was pulled across Leechburg Road to block traffic at Park Drive on one end, and traffic was diverted from the opposite direction at Wildlife Lodge Road.

About a block off Leechburg Road and down Alder Street, a nursery school was locked down as a precaution, police said.

Across the street from the Dollar Store, dozens of people gathered to watch.

“It's unusual,” said Sean Riddle, of Michigan Avenue, Lower Burrell.”I've seen people dump all sorts of garbage all the time, but this is unusual.”

“Yeah, it looks suspicious,” said Denny Gentile of Yale Street, Lower Burrell. “Today, everything looks suspicious. Nothing looks right.”

By noon, an Allegheny County Police bomb squad was requested. It took a little more than an hour for the bomb squad's special rig and two-man crew to arrive.

About 1:30 p.m., a heavily armored technician slowly walked up to the bag and took photos. Next, a portable X-ray was set up. A while later, the other officer in a helmet and flak vest took more photos.

Then, kneeling down, wire cutters in hand, he turned over the tube, examined it, and put it back face down. Then he waved the “all clear” signal.

“We'll take it away,” Weitzel said. “There's a recycling event coming up.”

Police continue to investigate who left the TV tube and why.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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