Bomb scare disrupts Pittsburgh Marathon; suspicious device in microwave oven disabled by robot

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pittsburgh Marathon disrupted by bomb scare

PITTSBURGH — A suspicious device near the finish line of the Pittsburgh Marathon on Sunday prompted police to briefly stop the race after it had begun. The device was disabled and police said it was not believed to have been an actual explosive.

The device, in a small microwave oven, was spotted Sunday morning on the sidewalk next to the Greyhound bus station after the race leaders had finished the course, police Lt. Kevin Kraus said.

The bomb squad determined there were contents that resembled an explosive, and the area was evacuated, Kraus said. He declined to describe the materials that concerned authorities pending a further evaluation.

“Certainly, from what we did see on the X-rays, we were highly concerned,” he said.

The disruption came a day after a car-bomb scare in New York emptied Times Square, clearing thousands of tourists from the streets for 10 hours.

“After we witnessed what happened in New York City last night, we took (this) very seriously,” Police Chief Nate Harper said.

Kraus said police stopped the 26.2 mile race in the area for 10 to 12 minutes. The competition resumed after the bomb squad used a robot to disable the device and the area was cleared shortly before 11 a.m., he said.

“At this point, we believe it was not an actual explosive device, but we are still evaluating the microwave and its contents,” Kraus said. He said surveillance cameras in the area were being examined to try to find out who put the device there.

Police could not immediately confirm the race was re-routed. But Karen Fredette, a marathon spokeswoman, said the race was diverted around the block where the device was found but the finish of the race near the David L. Lawrence Convention Center was not changed.

“We’re really happy and happy that everyone is everybody is safe,” Fredette said.

A crowd waiting for runners to pass at mile 26 saw the first 10 or 15 runners go by and then were told to move up the street by marathon staff, said Kathleen Riordan, 41, of Dormont, who was waiting for her husband to run by.

“At first I wasn’t sure what was going on, either. I thought it was kind of strange that they were changing the marathon course,” Riordan said. She didn’t hear about the suspicious device until she got to the end of the course.

About 5,000 people took part in the full marathon, which does not attract the sport’s elite runners.

Katie Miller, 34, of Butler, and sister Jamie Kemerer, 31, of Charlotte, N.C., finished in about 5½ hours and didn’t notice any disruptions. The sisters said the only complication was a steady rain that had slowed to a drizzle by mid-day.

“Our shoes,” Kemerer said. “It was 5 pounds on each foot.”

Kipyegon Kirui, 29, of Kenya, won the rain-soaked men’s race in a time of 2 hours, 17 minutes, 12 seconds. Alena Vinitskaya, 36, of Belarus, won the women’s race in 2:42.33.

Associated Press Writer Ron Todt in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

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