Explosion rocks Woolmarket neighborhood

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

WOOLMARKET, MS (WLOX) -  The explosion was so loud, it set off car alarms in the Woolmarket neighborhood.  Neighbors gathered in front of their homes Friday afternoon wondering what caused the big boom.

The commotion started before 10am, when the Harrison County Sheriff's Department received a call from Superior Utility.

"The gentleman that owns this property was plowing the field and he came across it," said John Campbell with the Biloxi Police Bomb Squad.

What he discovered was some sort of an explosive device.  The Biloxi Bomb Squad, ATF agents, and other agencies responded to the business off old Highway 67.

"We're not entirely positive if it's a practice round or it's an actual unexploded ordnance," Campbell said. "This is what we call a 3.5 inch rocket round.  It's what they used to fire from the old bazookas. They would fire this in order to create enough smoke to obscure their troops from the enemy."

The military rocket contained a potentially dangerous chemical.

"White phosphorus can cause severe burns, and if this were to get on somebody, it would keep burning until there was no oxygen left," said Campbell.

The big question is: How did the rocket end up here?  Officers say the area, now filled with homes, used to be a military training range.  The homes are near North Woolmarket Village Estates.

"Especially back in WWII and the Korean War, so this was an impact range for many years, and a lot of this stuff got underground and it's now just resurfacing," Campbell explained.

Instead of removing the rocket, officers decided to destroy it on the property.

"We're going to be on the safe side," he said. "We're going to dig a hole, and we're going to put it in the hole and we're going to countercharge it."

After a four hour process, bomb techs set off the controlled explosion.

"When it fires off, it's going to crack the casing, consuming the white phosphorus and any other explosives that may be in there," said Campbell.

Officers shut down a two-mile stretch of Old and New Highway 67 for just a few minutes while they destroyed the rocket.  The Biloxi Bomb Squad and ATF will collect pieces of the rocket for testing and cataloging purposes.

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