Tyler Varvel, 14, was working in his Jonestown, Pa., yard when a strange-looking object caught his eye. “I was spraying weeds on the side of the property and I saw something shiny,” he said. “I thought it was a bar or a metal stake or something like that.”
“I flicked it up with my shoe not thinking it was a bomb.”
But that’s exactly what it was, a World War II-era bomb buried in the middle of the small town. Upon realizing what the object was, Tyler backed off right away. “I called my mother immediately,” he said, adding, “It was buried about 4 or 5 inches in, it looked like something you’d see in a movie or something, sort of like a little torpedo.”
Tyler’s mother, Lora, who happened to be driving by the police station at the time, stopped and went in, showing officers a photo of the bomb that Tyler had snapped on his cellphone. Police then contacted state authorities who sprang in to action, arriving at the home even before Tyler’s mother.
As military police examined the bomb, which they later determined to have an injury radius of up to 300 yards, they warned family to stay away. “They said, ‘Well, you need to step back, you need to get back a little further, maybe go up by the house,’” Lora Varvel, said, adding that discoveries of old military explosives were not uncommon in the area.
“Neighbors have found things before, like old grenades,” she said.
It’s unclear where the bomb came from.
Fortunately for the Varvels, members of the State Police Bomb Detection and Disposal Unit discovered that the bomb was inert and not a live round. But the memory of the incident is going to stick with the family.
When asked whether she thought she’d be finding any other explosive devices in the yard, Lori Varvel said, “Not really but it does make you think.”
In the meantime, however, the Varvels have put plans to plant shade trees in the backyard on hold.