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Two students in custody following explosion at Hilo High School

Hilo High School (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Hilo High School (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7

Two high school students were in police custody Thursday afternoon in connection with a small explosion at Hilo High School.

No one was injured in the incident, which occurred shortly before 11:30 a.m. as students moved between classes and resulted in a campus lockdown for about 90 minutes.

South Hilo Patrol officers responded to the report that a device had detonated on campus and recovered the remnants of a plastic liquid container and an unidentified liquid substance.

The device was in an open walkway near the school’s auditorium. The only damage was residue at the site and some black streaks on the ceiling.

Patrol officers and school security guards screened the campus for any additional devices but found none.

Two 16-year-old male students were arrested and taken into custody while detectives from the Juvenile Aid Section continue the terroristic threatening investigation.

The lockdown was lifted shortly before 1 p.m. and the school day for approximately 1,250 students ended at 2:20 p.m., as scheduled.

Students had mixed feelings about the incident.

One boy said, “I was walking right next to it. It was a huge boom and I thought ‘Holy Moly.’ It was kind of scary. At first they thought I did it. They said I must have thrown it because I was right there. But I didn’t do it.”

A girl said, “I’m not really scared. It was just the longest lockdown we’ve ever had.”

Another boy said, “It wasn’t that big of a deal. Everyone was just made about the lockdown. It was just one of those chemical bombs.”

Authorities said the device likely was a chemical bottle bomb, which typically involves mixing household chemicals in 2-liter plastic soda bottles.

Meanwhile, some parents were more concerned than others.

“It’s quite frightening. You know how rumors fly – first it was a bomb, then gunshots and then an escapee (from the adjacent Hawaii County Correctional Center),” Tara Albrecht said.

Albrecht’s daughter, a sophomore, was not on campus at the time, although her boyfriend immediately texted her about the incident and an automated call came from the school informing parents that the school was on lockdown and the police were investigating.

The call offered no details, Albrecht said. “You don’t get any information from the school, but thank God for cell phones. The kids were able to fill in the gaps,” she said.

“No one gives out official information and parents get so scared,” she said. “Parents call each other to see what they’ve heard.”

Albrecht said she eventually got another automated phone call informing her the lockdown had been lifted. However, that call came more than an hour afterward, which she said caused her another hour of unnecessary worry.

Her son attends Hilo Intermediate School, directly across the street from the high school, and Albrecht said she was concerned about him.

“What’s scary is kids don’t really think things through and have no concept of what could happen. Anything could have happened. Somebody could have been really hurt,” she said. “They have campus security, but that doesn’t deter kids from naughty behavior.”

Another mother was not as concerned.

“I got the text, but nine times out of 10, it’s an escapee,” Kathy Plack said. “I’m never really worried. They’re pretty serious about security over there.”

Like Albrecht, Plack said she would appreciate more detailed information in a timely fashion.

“They should give out more information,” she said, noting that her daughters came home with a letter from the school administration.

The letter said the school was on lockdown “briefly” after “an unknown device exploded.”

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