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LAX dry ice bombs: Expert says devices not serious threat

October 15, 2013|By Joseph Serna

There’s virtually no chance the small dry ice bombs found at Los Angeles International Airport in the last two days could cause any real damage, an explosives expert said Tuesday.

“They’re really not a bomb, just a noise generator,” said Paul Worsey, an explosives expert and professor of mining and nuclear energy at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. “There’s not enough energy involved…. It wouldn’t really be effective. It’d just be a rupture.”

Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide. When it’s put into a small, enclosed space like a plastic water bottle, the pressure builds as it turns from solid to gas. The pressure eventually builds up until the container ruptures, or explodes.

On Monday, a dry ice bomb exploded and two others were found in a restricted area of the airport. One was also found Sunday night in an employees' bathroom.

The latest explosion occurred about 8:30 p.m. Monday near the gate area of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, law enforcement authorities said.

The devices — bottles with dry ice inside — appeared to be outside the terminal near planes where employees, such as baggage handlers and others, work on the aircraft and its cargo.

The dry ice would have to be carried in a cooler because a person carrying it in their hand or pocket would get burned, Worsey said.

“I don’t know if it’s someone playing a practical joke or just an idiot,” he said. "There’s a lot of weird people that pass background checks.”

The FBI was assisting the LAPD in the investigation into how the devices were placed in restricted areas at LAX.

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joseph.serna@latimes.com

@josephserna

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