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Andros F6a Robot (product photo)

 

Cops: Bomb robot saved our lives

Porter County robot damaged, under repair

By Ken Kosky

The Times

This story ran on Friday, October 7, 2005 12:40 AM CDT

 

The bomb-handling robot that was damaged Wednesday while working on an explosive inside a suspect’s car may have saved the lives of the responding police officers.

“If not for having a robot, this could have been a deadly situation for law enforcement,” said Lt. Chris Eckert of the Porter County Sheriff’s Department Bomb Unit.

Porter County’s Bomb Unit -which serves all of Northwest Indiana- responded to the Wednesday night call of a bomb in a stopped vehicle on Cline Avenue, north of Columbus Drive in East Chicago.

Eckert said he directed the Andros F6A robot to approach the bomb and attempt to render it safe,  But while the robot was doing its job, the bomb somehow detonated, destroying the car and damaging the robot.  Eckert stressed that their intent was to render the bomb safe, not detonated it, but detonation can happen.

The robot, which looks like its been through war, is still functional but will require repairs, Eckert said.  A Homeland Security grant of more than $100,000 allowed the department to obtain the robot in February.

Prior to getting the robot, bomb unit members often had to approach a bomb themselves something that could have been deadly in Wednesday night’s case.

“The technology we’ve got obviously paid dividends,” Porter County Sheriff David Reynolds said.

“The robot was damaged, but we can always fix the robot.”

Eckert said the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is joining local law enforcement to investigate what the bomb was made of and what caused it to detonate.  It’s too early to speculate, Eckert said, adding car and bomb fragment flew hundreds of yards.  Nobody was injured because an area around the bomb was evacuated, although Eckert said he felt the shock waves from the massive explosion.

Eckert, a 14-year member of the Bomb Unit, said this is the first unexpected explosion he’s been involved with.

“We train to expect it, but we try to avoid it,” Eckert said.

Still he said that “everybody went home safe.”

Porter County’s Bomb Unit is one if 12 accredited units in Indiana.  It responds outside the county as part of the same mutual aid agreements that allow, for example, a Lake County police helicopter to fly to Porter County to look for fleeing suspect.

 

The car after the explosion

The Sheriff's Andros F6A after the explosion

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