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Abandoned Bag Prompts Bridge Closure

Tammy Daniels & Andy McKeever

State police bomb squad examine X-rays of the suspicious bag left under Veterans Memorial Bridge, which is shown in the background.

 

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A bag full of dirty clothes shut down one of the city's main arteries for more than two hours on Wednesday night.

The suspicious bag was reported abandoned under the Veterans Memorial Bridge just after 6 p.m.

An initial investigation led police to believe the bag could contain a bomb or explosives and they closed the roads around 7 p.m. The bomb squad was called about less than a half hour later.

"We had a suspicious package under the artery," said Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco, who described it as "an old dufflebag."  "We originally checked it with a thermal scanner and we found a hot spot."

That was enough to call in the state police bomb squad, he said. Two squad members arrived around 9 p.m.

Access to Marshall Street between Main and River streets and Veterans Memorial Bridge, carrying Route 2, was blocked and diverted over Main Street and River Street.

Shortly before 10 p.m. state police finished the investigation and found the bag was not harmful. They took X-rays using a portable machine to determine there were no explosives. Once that was completed, a trooper wearing a safety vest opened the bag and looked inside to confirm.

The team brought along the remote-control robot but did not deploy it.

A dufflebag of some type can be seen under the Veterans Memorial Bridge.

"The city should be so fortunate to have such a quick response by police, fire department and ambulance," Mayor Richard Alcombright said when the roads were being reopened. "I want to give a very big thank you to the state police for their help."

The four-lane memorial bridge continues Route 2 over Marshall Street, the Hoosic River and parking lots on both sides of Marshall.

What appeared to be a large, dark bag of some sort could be seen about midway between the concrete pillars supporting the deck on the edge of the east side of the parking lot near the sidewalk at about 9 p.m. The nearby Mohawk Tavern was dark and reportedly evacuated.

North Adams Police were being aided by a state police cruiser and Clarksburg police to prevent motorists from driving under or over the bridge.

Officer Jason Wood said the bag was "full of dirty clothes." An officer is still investigating but Wood wasn't sure it if there was anything in the bag to identify the owner. "It was in an odd spot," he said, adding the bag is now "lost property."

The last time a suspicious package raised this level of caution was more than two years during a failed bank robbery attempt by Robert A. Bywaters. Bywaters claimed to have a bomb in a bag he left on the sidewalk in front of Hoosac Bank on Main Street.

The main drag was shut down for nearly 12 hours before the state police bomb squad removed the bag and disposed of the contents.

Updated and rewritten throughout to add and correct details; Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010, 10:58 p.m.

Update on Saturday, Dec.18: The bag turns out to have been stolen from a woman at the Thrifty Bundle laundromat on State Road. According to a report in the North Adams Transcript, someone grabbed her purse and, when she gave chase, someone else stole her bag.

Tags: road closure, bomb      

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