$10,000 reward offered for information on the explosive device at Turtleback Mountain trail

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is offering up to a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for leaving an explosive device at Turtleback Mountain.

An Orcas Island resident reported the sighting to the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 6. Photos and a description were sent to the Washington State Bomb Squad in Seattle. The squad traveled to the island to investigate the item, which was determined to be an improvised explosive device. The mechanism, which had wires and a battery, was neutralized by the bomb squad at approximately 7 p.m.

According to Sheriff Ron Krebs, the incident is still under investigation. He said that a hiker found the device that appeared to have been purposefully placed at the location, but he was unable to verify whether it was on the trail or in the woods. The bomb squad took the evidence back to Seattle to examine it. There are currently no leads.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting the sheriff’s office with the investigation into the IED.

ATF and the SJCO requested in a press release that residents and visitors pay close attention to their surroundings and report any suspicious objects they find. If a suspicious object is found, people are requested to stay as far away from it as possible when calling 911. It is also requested that individuals keep others from entering the area.

Anyone with information on the person or persons who placed the device; hears or has heard loud explosions, either in the recent past or in the future; or finds a site that appears to have had an explosion there, are asked to call ATF at its toll-free hotline, 888-ATF-TIPS (283-8477). All calls to ATF can remain anonymous.

People can also submit a tip through ATF’s new “report it” app available at www.reportit.com and at Google Play and the Apple App Store. All tips are confidential and can be anonymous.

On Aug. 9, Krebs released the following statement:

There is an understandable and significant concern throughout the islands following the discovery on Monday of an improvised explosive device on the San Juan County Land Bank Turtleback Mountain Preserve property on Orcas Island. The ongoing investigation is being led by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, with the support of the office of San Juan County Sheriff. While some details of the incident and investigation will not be made public at this time, there are key messages that need to be shared with the community:

1. This was a confirmed explosive device with the potential to easily kill or injure someone.

2. The device was made from commercial grade explosives not readily available to the general public.

3. It is not known exactly how long the device was in place or what the likelihood is of other devices. There is no known motive at this time, nor are there any suspects. As a result of the potentially severe impact of this device, and the uncertainty surrounding who placed it, the Orcas Island community is urged to keep the following in mind:

1. Please be aware, alert and vigilant when walking the trails on island public lands. Look forward, and look for materials that look unnatural or out of place. Keep kids and pets close at hand. Please report anything suspicious to 911 immediately. DO NOT TOUCH or MOVE anything that looks suspicious.

2. Please report to the Sheriff’s Office information about anyone who has access to or possession of illegally held commercial grade explosives. The anonymous tip line is 360-370-7629. Likewise, if you know of anyone who has taken an interest in explosives, or seems like they could be connected to this incident, please report it immediately.

3. Please report any instances of loud explosions, either currently or in the past, or sites in the woods or elsewhere that appear to be the location of an explosion or detonation.

The investigation of this disturbing incident will benefit from the attention and knowledge of the entire island community. If you think you have an important piece of information, please share it immediately.