Update: Suspicious item found at Nation Ford High was a prop, not prank

joverman@fortmilltimes.com adys@heraldonline.comDecember 18, 2012 

Students at Nation Ford High School were moved out of part of the building today when a suspicious object was found in a nearby parking lot.

The object turned out to be a prop used by the Carolina Crown drum and bugle corps, which rehearsed in the lot over the weekend.

It had “the appearance of an explosive device” Capt. Bryan Zachary of the Fort Mill Police Department said at about 1:45 p.m. before determining it was a band prop mistakenly left behind. Zachary said at the time that police were certain the apparent device did not contain explosives.

The incident initially appeared to be a prank, he said.

"They (Carolina Crown) use it in a training routine. They throw it out there and pretend someone ruined the routine. They say the person just ‘blew it,'" said Fort Mill School District spokesperson Kelly McKinney.

McKinney said the prop was found by a staff member in a staff parking lot. Students were removed from the building near that parking lot, following the district’s protocol, she said, and school administration called police.

“There was no threat. Students were moved to another section of the building, following protocol,” she said.

The object was removed by police.

It was described as a sphere, the size of a large shot put or cannonball with a rope glued to the end of it, Zachary said. The Rock Hill Police Department bomb squad responded at around 11:30 a.m. and found the sphere not to be an explosive after an x-ray, said Tommy Schmolze, assistant superintendent of schools in Fort Mill.

“It looked like a bomb, though,” Schmolze said.

No one was hurt and school was affected for about 45 minutes, officials said.

The scare came as area parents were on edge concerning safety just after a gunman killed 20 students and six staffers at a Connecticut elementary school Friday. Police and school officials took the finding of the sphere “very seriously,” Zachary said.

“We are relived to be able to confirm that it was not a bomb, not a prank, but a prop left there from the weekend,” said Zachary.

Schmolze said that Nation Ford parents were notified of the event by school-wide telephone and e-mail Tuesday after school was dismissed. The school district also was going to post what happened on its website.

“We wanted to be careful and vigilant and at the same time not cause any false alarm,” Schmolze said. “We have protocols at the school and with law enforcement for this type of event and we followed those.”

Carolina Crown Executive Director Jim Coates said the sphere left on school grounds was “absolutely inadvertent,” but said that the sphere will not be used again.

Performers use the sphere to weigh down tarps that covered equipment, Coates said, and had glued a rope to the sphere to make it easier to carry. The device that looks like a spherical bomb with the rope attached to it was also used by performers during training to show if someone had “blown up” a routine and made a mistake, officials said.

That type of action will no longer be used at Carolina Crown, Coates said.

“Clearly, especially after the events of last week, this is not appropriate,” Coates said.

Herald columnist Andrew Dys contributed

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