Thursday, January 30
HILO, Hawaii (AP) — A small bomb exploded Thursday outside an auditorium at a Hawaii high school, prompting a brief campus lockdown but apparently causing no injuries, authorities said.
Police said two students, both 16-year-old boys, were arrested then released to their parents. It wasn't clear if the device was meant to hurt anyone or if it was a prank.
The small device exploded at Hilo High School on the Big Island around 11:15 a.m. and was being described as a "bottle bomb," Hawaii Department of Education spokesman Alex Da Silva said. It went off on a walkway leading to the auditorium, Da Silva said. A class was in session in the auditorium, but nobody was near the explosion, which caused no damage beyond residue.
"Any sealed container with chemicals ... that's agitated may likely cause an injury, but I don't know how severe it would be," Hawaii County Police Lt. Greg Esteban said. "Fortunately, no one got hurt."
Esteban said the students were released without being charged while the investigation continues.
Nobody was allowed to leave or enter the campus during the lockdown, but police and fire officials gave an all-clear less than two hours later after finding no other devices on campus, Da Silva said. Classes resumed, and students were released at their normal time.
"Police recovered the remnants of a plastic liquid container and unidentified liquid substance," police said in a news release.
The school of about 1,250 students is on the east side of the Big Island.
"I heard a boom, then they said stay in our classroom and we couldn't leave," said 14-year-old freshman Erika Tagalicot. "There was a lot of cops and fire guys here."
Tagalicot said that despite the incident, she's not nervous to go back to school on Friday.
Debra Palisbo, a 14-year-old freshman, said she didn't hear the explosion, but she was in computer class when one of her classmates got up and walked outside. "I saw a cop put him in the car," she said.
PTSA president Karen Tollestrup said her daughter texted her that there was a lockdown because of an explosion, but that she was safe. Tollestrup also received two automated phone calls — one saying there was a lockdown and then another one saying it was lifted.
"I'm always concerned when there's a lockdown," she said. "It is Hilo, so I wasn't totally concerned. But in the news lately there have been so many incidents on the mainland."
Even closer to home in Honolulu, she said, was Tuesday's lockdown at Roosevelt High School when an officer shot a knife-wielding teen in the wrist.
"It was because of Roosevelt I thought, gosh, what if someone shot someone. But Hilo is a pretty safe town," she said.
That's why she would have liked to have known exactly what happened.
"The thing I was most concerned about is I didn't know why they were in lockdown. I guess I would have like to know at the time why were in lockdown," she said. "But I wasn't concerned to the point I was nervous."
After she learned some details, she said, "It sounds to me like it was a prank."
The principal didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.