Suspected pipe bomb ends up being geocache tube
The Worthington Police Department was dispatched to the Worthington Cemetery before 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday on the report that a possible explosive device was located in the barrel of a cannon.
It looked like a pipe bomb, but three hours later, it was determined that the suspicious device was a harmless geocache tube.
Worthington Town Marshal Don Richardson was first on the scene. He was quickly followed by other WPD officers, deputies from the Greene County Sheriff's Department, troopers from the Indiana State Police, the Worthington Fire Department and their first responders plus personnel from the Greene County Ambulance Service.
A perimeter was set up and yellow police tape appeared around the Veterans Memorial in the center of the cemetery. The aging cannon is located on the new memorial which was dedicated on Memorial Day, 2012.
The incident started when Ken Stalcup and Kermit Wilcox of Worthington VFW Post 7117 were at the memorial to raise a new POW flag on the new flagpole.
Stalcup said they noticed two small U.S. flags, that are normally inside the cannon, had been taken out and had been placed on the ground. In a picture that Stalcup took on his cell phone, they did not appear to be thrown down but were standing up in the ground.
When Wilcox looked inside the cannon, he noticed an object that did not look like it should be there since the only thing they expected to see inside the cannon would be flags.
Many visitors to the Worthington Cemetery know that the local veterans keep a few small flags inside the cannon for people who want to place a flag on the grave of a veteran on holidays or other occasions. They've been doing this for as long as anyone can remember.
Stalcup said the object looked like a pipe bomb but they couldn't be sure so they got away from the area and reported it to the Worthington Police Department.
South Jefferson Street was closed and Greene County Sheriff's Deputy Brad Deckard stopped all vehicles coming from town and confirmed there would be no through-traffic until the investigation was complete.
With Indiana State Police Trooper Eric Nash on the scene, explosives experts were requested and the Indiana State Police escorted their bomb squad and technicians to the scene, but not before it started pouring rain. The squad was setting up and preparing to tackle the problem in a heavy downpour.
For three hours, nobody knew for sure what was in the cannon. Mike Steward, a Worthington firefighter who was on the scene until it ended, said it's always best to be safe rather than sorry.
As word of the incident spread around Worthington, the news reached a man who participates in geocaching and he took off for the cemetery.
Chris Franich placed the object in the cannon a few weeks ago and said he remembered telling an official from the cemetery that he was leaving the geocache there.
The object appeared to be made of PVC pipe with ends that would screw off. It was painted brown. A log book was inside along with some miscellaneous small objects that other geocachers had left. The geocache bore resemblance to a pipe bomb. Although it clearly was marked as a "Geocache" on the side, that could not be seen when looking down the barrel of the cannon.
After speaking with law enforcement officials on the scene, bystanders watched an unusual ending to the incident. Shortly after he arrived, Franich took off running through the rain up to the cannon, reached in and pulled out the geocache and returned to the tent set up beside the bomb squad vehicle.
As bystanders and all the law enforcement and emergency personnel were leaving the area, an ISP bomb squad technician was talking to Franich about making sure geocaches do not look like pipe bombs.
According to a popular web site dedicated to the activity of geocaching, geocaching.com, "Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location."
Participants place and also hunt geocaches then log their finds online. It is believed to have started around 2000 and has since grown in popularity. Geocaches have been placed and found in locations large and small, easy to find and hard to find, all over the world."
There are numerous types of geocache containers. In the case of the one found in the Worthington Cemetery, it was a tube. Others include boxes, envelopes and all kinds of various containers. Many contain a log book inside so geocache hunters can sign and note the date when they found the cache.
A quick search for geocaches on the geocache.com website returns entries for 679 geocaches that are located within a 25-mile radius of the Worthington Cemetery.