Home scoured for explosives after fatal blast

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RICHMOND (AP) — Authorities continued to look for explosives yesterday in the Chesterfield County home of a Civil War buff who died when a munition exploded on his property.

Neighbors heard the blast at about 1:25 p.m. Monday, then called police after finding the victim dead near a detached garage in his back yard.

Police identified the victim as Samuel H. White, 53.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the explosive the killed Mr. White might have been a cannonball.

Chesterfield police Capt. Steve Neal described the device only as a military ordnance, possibly from the Civil War.

Authorities found other unexploded military ordnance at the house, and evacuated about two dozen homes nearby until they could detonate the explosives and determine whether the area was safe. County police spokeswoman Ann Reid said the evacuation would remain in effect indefinitely.

“We don’t have any reason to believe there will be an additional explosion,” Capt. Neal said. “But we would rather be safe than sorry.”

Mr. White ran a Web site called Sam White Relics (www.samwhiterelics.com). The site had photos of relics for sale, including Civil War artillery shells, cannonballs, bullets and other artifacts.

Mr. White said on the site he “will disarm, clean and preserve your Civil War period and earlier military ordinance” for about $35 a piece.

“I’ve done approximately 500 artillery projectiles and still have all my fingers (I must be doing something right, knock on wood),” he states on the site.

Neighbor Brian Dunkerly told the newspaper that a chunk of the ordnance flew into the air and smashed through the front-porch roof of his home about a quarter mile away. The piece of metal — weighing close to 15 pounds — then shattered his glass front door, hit the interior wood floor and bounced to the ceiling before coming to rest in the center of his living room. Nobody was injured in the Dunkerly home.

State police bomb experts, along with agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are assisting Chesterfield police and fire officials with the investigation.

Todd Gallagher, who lives about 150 yards away, was sitting at his computer in an upstairs room when the blast rumbled the windows of his house.

Mr. Gallagher said he thought the noise was exploding dynamite from a nearby landfill or a neighbor’s exploding propane tank “because it was something that was very, very loud — more than just a gunshot.”

“It’s an awful tragedy for the family,” he said. “It’s just tremendous that something like that could happen with such an old piece” of munitions. “But it shows the danger of that stuff.”

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