Porter County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Veal tries on a new protective suit for
use on the bomb squad. (Gregg Gearhart / The Times)
VALPARAISO -- Mike Veal looked like he stepped out of the pages
of a science fiction story.
His fellow Porter County Bomb Squad members looked on as he suited up in one
of the squad's new green state-of-the-art bomb suits, walked around the room,
then closed himself in a closet. Two suits arrived Thursday night courtesy of
"Oh man, this ain't nothing compared to the other one," Veal, the squad's
commander, said about the new suit. The suit, called SRS-5, weighs about 45 pounds, minus the helmet, less than
half the weight of the "big" bomb suits, which the squad has been using. All
working bomb squads in the United States are in line to eventually get the new
suits, Veal said.
Not only will the suits provide squad members more maneuverability in
investigating bombs, but they will make the job safer since it doubles the
number of suits available for calls. The new suits also allow members to use air
packs to protect themselves from hazardous chemicals.
The squad has been busy this year, already being called on 13 incidents,
three of which involved schools. Most recently, the bomb squad was called to
Lake County schools on bomb threats.
In Merrillville, the school was evacuated and closed after five threatening
notes and a suspicious-looking backpack were found inside the school. The bomb
squad determined the backpack, found in a garbage can near the school's
industrial arts classroom, contained only paper.
At Edison Jr.-Sr. High School in Lake Station, the squad detonated a wired
device in a boys' bathroom next to the school library. Last year, the squad was called 29 times, the year before, 30.
The squad consists of Veal, coordinator Bill Garner, Chris Eckert, Charles
Douthett and Nick Starcevic.