NEW YORK, (Reuters) – Backyard barbecue gas tanks, firecrackers and alarm clocks were among the ingredients used to make a car bomb that authorities say would have killed many people if it had exploded in New York’s busy Times Square.
New York police beefed up security in Midtown Manhattan today after the failed bomb was spotted last evening, smoking and sparking in the back of a Nissan Pathfinder sports utility vehicle by a T-shirt street vendor.
“If this had detonated, in my judgment it would have caused causalities, a significant fireball,” New York Police Commission Ray Kelly told a news conference.
“I’m told that the vehicle itself would have at least been cut in half. You have a number of pedestrians in that area so we were lucky that it didn’t detonate,” he said.
The Times Square entertainment and shopping district, often called “The Crossroads of the World,” was packed with tourists and theater-goers on a warm Saturday evening when the vehicle containing the bomb was left on 45th Street at Broadway with the engine running and hazard lights flashing.
Kelly said three propane tanks were found in the back of the vehicle next to a metal gun locker. One of the tanks had M-88 fireworks attached to it, some of which detonated.
M-88 firecrackers, say the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, contain 50 mg or less of explosive material known as “flash powder,” a fast-burning mix of aluminum, potassium perchlorate and other materials.
New York is among a handful of U.S. states that ban the sale of fireworks.
On the Pathfinder’s back seat, police found two full five-gallon gasoline tanks with a 16-ounce container between them filled with more M-88s. Two alarm clocks — one canary yellow — were on the backseat floor of the car and attached with wires to the can of fireworks and possibly the metal gun locker.
The locker was taken to the police bomb squad facility and on Sunday afternoon an explosive device was used to open it. Inside, authorities found eight bags of a substance thought to be fertilizer, along with a pressure cooker pot full of wires and firecrackers. A fertilizer bomb was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
“A lot of lives were probably saved (by the quick response by emergency services),” said FBI Special Agent in Charge George Venizelos. “No matter where you are in the country, if you see something suspicious report it.”