Explosions: Collecting The Evidence

Explosions: Collecting the evidence


Every good thriller has at least one big explosion, right? You know, the “big boom” that always takes place right after the heart-stopping car chase, just before the hero rescues the kidnap victim who’s about to die at the hand of the cleverly-written villain. Yes, that explosion.

What we don’t see in our favorite thriller, though, is the collecting of evidence at explosion scenes. So let’s take a moment to examine that aspect of the scenario. What should be happening in the background while the hero is saving the world?

1. Bombings/explosions are not for the Sam Spade’s of the police department. Nope, these crimes should be worked by specially-trained investigators, as well as a team of experts that includes (but is not limited to) bomb disposal technicians, photographer, forensics/CSI team, medical examiner (if needed), structural engineer(s), building safety official, power company technician, additional officers to help search, etc.

2.  Bombing scenes are apt to change at any moment (parts of a building may suddenly collapse, etc.), therefore, the  investigator must be constantly aware of the surroundings, and he/she must thoroughly evaluate and re-evaluate before allowing evidence collection to begin.

3. As always, the scene should remain secure. A command post should be established, as well as a secure and safe location for staging collected evidence.

4. Locate and dispose of all remaining active explosives, utilizing canines, bomb robots, explosive detection chemicals, etc.

5. To avoid contamination, the team should wear protective clothing as they collect evidence and control samples. The special clothing also protects the investigator’s skin from toxic material.

6. Evidence from various locations at the scene should be stored separately (do not mix).

7. Collect ALL evidence, including suspected bomb parts, batteries, wires, samples from crater, and the usual hair, fibers, blood, etc. During autopsy the medical examiner will also collect fragments removed from victims,

8. Document the scene—blast effect (are street signs leaning away from the blast scene? if so, indicate direction. trees down? cars overturned?), debris (type, amount of, and distance from the blast site), victim(s) location before and after the blast occurred.

9. Medical examiner should conduct full-body x-rays, searching for components of the bomb and other foreign material relevant to the crime.

10. And, without fail, the investigator should always…walk softly.

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5 replies
  1. Meb Bryant
    Meb Bryant says:

    Thank you for the explosive blog. (pun intended) While reading or viewing bomb stories, I become apprehensive and nervous, like being in a shark tank before feeding time. At least the sharks are hungry. What’s the bomber’s motivation?

    I always enjoy your informative blogs. Thank you.

  2. Monica T. Rodriguez
    Monica T. Rodriguez says:

    What a terrific find! I found you through the crimescenewriter yahoo group. I may not have an explosion in my WIP, but I can see that your blog is very informative and will be valuable for my writing. Going to go thru your archives & definitely follow you!

  3. Mary Brookman
    Mary Brookman says:

    Your post is also timely for me. I will definitely attend the arson workshops at the WPA this year. Your post brings up more specific questions that I hope to have answered. Thanks for all you do to get us the correct information so our work is authentic.

  4. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe says:

    Lee, as always, you’re so timely. I’m outlining a new book in my series, in which there’s the firebombing of a tattoo shop. It may not be quite what you’re talking about, but gives me some things to think about.

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