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Small Explosive Devices Detonate Near New House Yard on Tuesday

By Venkatesh Satish
news editor

One or more explosive devices, which could have been "dry ice bombs," soda bottles containing a mixture of dry ice and water, exploded in the courtyard between MacGregor House and New House early Tuesday morning, waking students and leaving one unexploded device near the suite of the New House housemasters.

Campus Police received complaints about a loud noise at 2 a.m. and responded minutes later, said Chief Anne P. Glavin. Officers at the scene decided to call in the Cambridge Fire Department to assist with the situation. Requesting such help is not unusual when Campus Police are dealing with explosive devices, Glavin said.

Eventually, only one exploded device and one unexploded device were found near New House. The unexploded one was near the living area of New House Housemaster John M. Essigmann '76, and it was very near to the play area of his son.

"I'm obviously very concerned. Students who were doing this left an unexploded bottle in an area where a child plays," Essigmann said. He also noted that the device was placed close to a swing and see-saw.

"I don't think it's a good idea to play with these kinds of devices because it could cause harm" to the people who assembled the bombs, as well, Essigmann said.

Investigations to proceed

It is uncertain right now who might have committed the act, and the Campus Police has yet to complete its investigation, Glavin said. In many similar cases, "it's simply impossible to find out who did it, and that might be the case here."

"I think it is an irresponsible act, [but] I don't think it was malicious," said MacGregor Housemaster Munther A. Dahleh. An internal investigation through MacGregor's Judicial Committee will be launched to determine if MacGregor residents were responsible for making and throwing the devices, he said.

There is some doubt as to how many bombs went off, with some residents claiming they heard two explosions, Dahleh said.

Essigmann said he heard a loud noise at around 11 p.m. Monday night shortly before retiring for the evening, but said he was not sure if that was one of the devices.

"We feel strongly that [the incident] was inappropriate, and we are determined to get to the bottom of it," said John S. Wilson, associate housemaster at MacGregor.

"Fortunately, no one got hurt. I think the message [has] gotten to the students who did it. I am certain they will learn from the lesson. As far as I'm concerned, it's over," Essigmann said.

The Campus Police were not certain what materials were in the one-liter soda bottles, Glavin said. Glavin said that the Campus Police have several theories about what could have caused the explosion, but she refused to comment further.

Students found to be responsible for such incidents are usually referred to the appropriate Institute channels to be disciplined, Glavin said.

Incidents with explosive devices have not been common on campus recently, Glavin said. In previous cases, projectiles were thrown off the roofs of buildings on Amherst Alley, which is dangerous, she said. "When you add an explosive factor, it becomes all the more dangerous. It's not something we look at lightly," she said.

"These things might seem like lots of fun, but students don't always think about the ramifications" of something going wrong, Glavin said.