UPDATE 02:15 p.m. Fayette County school superintendents provided statements in response to Friday’s bomb threats.
David Lewis, Miami Trace Local Schools Superintendent said schools issued a two hour delay early Friday morning while they gathered more information about the threats. After consulting with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Lewis said they decided to close all schools so that a thorough investigation could be completed.
“We are thankful for the cooperation between agencies and the expedited manner in which the investigation was conducted. Student safety will always be a top priority for our school district. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this difficult and unforeseen incident. School will resume on Tuesday, following the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday on Monday. Have a good weekend,” wrote Lewis.
Matt McCorkle, Washington City Schools Superintendent, said that athletic events are cancelled today as well.
“All athletic practices for Friday, January 13th, 2017, are also cancelled. Tonight’s basketball game against Miami Trace has also been cancelled. A make-up date for this game will be released as soon as possible. Classes will resume on Tuesday, January 17th, 2017,” wrote McCorkle.
UPDATE 12:01 p.m. As of noon Friday all schools in Fayette County have been cleared by law enforcement officers after K-9 units checked for pipe bombs.
Washington C.H. City Schools, Miami Trace Local Schools, Fayette Christian School, were each cleared after K-9s swept through all elementary, middle and high schools in the districts. Buses and bus garages were cleared as well. No bombs or materials associated with explosives were found.
Schools are now secured, according to Vernon Stanforth, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, after law enforcement officers responded to two bomb threat calls that were made in the early morning hours of Friday to the Washington C.H. Police Department.
The Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, Washington City Police Department, ATF, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Columbus Fire Department, Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, and the Franklin County Bomb Squad and Canine Units responded to the threats.
An investigation into who made the threats is on-going.
Classes were cancelled Friday morning as a result of the threats. Stanforth said there is heightened security around all schools in the county with law enforcement officers maintaining a pro-active presence on school properties for the next several days.
Stanforth said the school buildings are secured with video surveillance and alarms.
“If something goes on, we will know who came in and out of the building,” said Stanforth.
School officials said this is the first instance of a bomb threat the school has had in decades.
Debbie Southward, Miami Trace Middle School Vice Principal, said she has not seen anything like this in the 20 years she has been working in Fayette County schools.
The Washington C.H. Police Department is handling the investigation to determine where the calls came from, but as of noon Friday had nothing to update.
The first bomb threat was called in at 4:26 a.m. Friday and was answered by police dispatcher Erin Sanderson.
“Police Department, Sanderson.”
“Good morning …(distorted word)… I am a pipe bomb specialist. I have four pipe bombs ready. I am going to your high school today between 7 and 2 o’clock. Thank you have a good day.”
Sanderson can be heard on the line saying, “Hello…what did you say?”
Fourteen minutes later a second call was received at 4:40 a.m.
“Police Department, Sanderson.”
“Good morning Ms. Sanderson. I wanted to call back and let you know I am blowing up your high school today. Please be aware: I am blowing your high school up today. I have four pipe bombs. I am ready. Anytime between 7 and 2. Thank you.”
The voice sounds the same in both calls, but sounds as if it was a male voice either artificially generated using technology or filtered through voice modification technology.
UPDATE 11:05 a.m. Franklin County Sheriff K-9 units sniffed for bombs throughout the morning. As of about 11 a.m. emergency personnel were clearing the Miami Trace Elementary School, the last school in the county to be checked for bombs. Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth said no explosives have been found and each of the schools are being secured by law enforcement officers.
8:45 a.m. Both Washington C.H. City Schools and Miami Trace Local Schools have been closed today after two school-related bomb threat calls were made to the Washington C.H. Police Department this morning, according to authorities.
A dispatcher at the WPD received calls at 4:26 a.m. and 4:40 a.m. Friday that referenced a pipe bomb and threatened to “blow up your school” between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.
“The calls weren’t anymore specific than that,” said WPD Lt. Jon Long. “The first call sounded like a pre-recorded, possibly computer-generated threat and the second call may or may not have been a recording.”
Following the two calls, the dispatcher notified the WPD shift supervisor, who notified Washington City Schools Superintendent Matthew McCorkle and Miami Trace Superintendent David Lewis. The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office was also notified. Shortly after 7 a.m., the decision was made by both superintendents to close the districts for the day.
“We have bomb-sniffing dogs coming from other jurisdictions that will do a sweep of all of the buildings in both school districts,” said Long. “Also, we’re in contact with our telephone contract provider to try to find the source of the calls.”
Stay with the Record-Herald for the latest on this story.
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