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Break-in at storage trailer that contained explosives probed

| Wednesday, March 16, 2005

State police in Somerset County and federal investigators are investigating a break-in at a storage trailer that contained material used to manufacture explosives.

The trailer was entered at a storage site off Village Road in Somerset Township sometime between March 11-14, said state police. Owned by D.C. Guelich Explosive Co., of Clearfield, the trailer contained numerous bags of ammonium nitrate and blasting agents.

The trailer's contents are being inventoried by company officials and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine whether any explosives were taken, police said.

Dave Helsley, branch manager of D.C. Guelich's Somerset location, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

D.C. Guelich Explosive Co. is a supplier of commercial explosives and equipment, according to its Web site.

Ammonium nitrate is used worldwide both as a fertilizer and as an explosives agent, according to Dr. Matthew Luderer, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.

It is highly explosive when mixed with gasoline, kerosene or other accelerants, Luderer said. Ammonium nitrate fertilizer was used in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people.

Despite a push by some groups to restrict U.S. sales of the chemical, Luderer said only two states, South Carolina and Nevada, regulate ammonium nitrate.

"It's such a good and cheap fertilizer, that's why it falls through the cracks," Luderer said. "Regulating it would bump up the cost. All these guys who use it as explosives can throw it in the back of a truck, mix it with a cheap fuel, run a wick to it, light it and run away."

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