Former munitions-maker says blast not his fault

AP News
Posted: Nov 07, 2013 1:27 PM
Former munitions-maker says blast not his fault

PHOENIX (AP) — A former munitions-maker who once owned an Arizona property where a man was wounded in an explosion this week says that whatever blew up didn't belong to him.

Steven Scott Lane, 49, remained hospitalized Thursday after losing part of his left foot and suffering severe injuries to his right leg.

Two witnesses initially told authorities that Lane had been helping them move out of a rented home on the property outside Phoenix on Monday night when he stepped on something buried in the ground that exploded.

Investigators later said the property hadn't been rented to anyone and was supposed to be vacant, and that whatever exploded wasn't buried.

Authorities remained at the site Thursday sweeping the area for munitions as they continued to investigate whether the blast was related to the property's previous owner who produced explosives there two decades ago.

"I know it is nothing that we left there that would go off," Charles Byers told KGTV in San Diego.

Byers owned the property in the 1990s and made numerous explosives devices there, but he said he kept everything locked up in storage units that "exceeded government specifications."

In 1997, federal agents raided the property and discovered enough explosives to support a small army. Byers later pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally possessing grenade fuses and manufacturing ammunition. He was sentenced to probation.

In 1999, a state task force declared the 120-acre ranch safe after removing thousands of pounds of chemical explosives, including materials to make grenades and booby traps.

"They did a pretty clean job," Byers told the TV station this week. "There wasn't a match they had left on that place."

Messages left for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which assisted in the initial disposal of munitions on the site, have not been returned. A spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer also did not return telephone messages or emails.

While authorities haven't ruled out the possibility that the device that injured Lane was left over from the cleanup, they say it could be unrelated, given the changing stories of the witnesses and the fact that they were not authorized to be on the property.

No charges have been filed in the case.