Police wary of booby-traps in blast site clean-up

POLICE are using controlled explosions in an attempt to secure the Hamilton Highway blast site at Derrinallum.

The explosions, within an exclusion zone set up around bomber Glenn Sanders’ property, took place yesterday afternoon and are scheduled to continue today.

Police said the Derrinallum township would not have to be evacuated and all residents inside the exclusion zone would be advised.

The town has been isolated since Friday night when police attempted to arrest Sanders and a siege developed. 

A seven-hour stand-off ended when Sanders triggered a series of huge blasts early Saturday morning, injuring two policemen and killing himself.

Acting Superintendent Paul Ross reassured about 120 people who attended a public meeting on Tuesday night that the town was safe.

But he warned the clean- up of remaining items by a specialist unit was “incredibly painstaking” and would take time. 

“The site out there is a little bit unusual in terms of the number of explosive devices that had been accumulated over a period of time,” Acting Superintendent Ross said.

“As you can imagine it is extremely complex and difficult for these specialists to go through the site — literally to turn over every stick, to turn over bit of debris and turn over anything at all to ensure there’s no explosive devices embedded to it, there’s no detonators, there’s nothing that can really injure anyone.

“It’s spread out with farm sheds. 

“There are locations where items may or may not have been buried. 

“Those items need to be excavated and they need to be excavated in a way that if they do contain explosive devices that our members won’t be injured. All of this takes time.”

Specialist equipment may be brought in from interstate to help with the task.

Acting Superintendent Ross said experts had advised it was too dangerous for traffic to use the highway even though the main bomb site was located about 70 metres from the road.

Police are now estimating the highway will not be reopened before the weekend and possibly not until next week.

They have considered reopening the road each night when clean-up work has finished for the day, but Acting Superintendent Ross said it could be an “unacceptable risk” for motorists if the site was not declared safe.

Homicide squad detective Sergeant Sol Solomon, who is lead investigator, described the incident as “terrible”.

He said his team had the important task of finding all the facts and circumstances to present to the coroner.

Detective Sergeant Solomon said officers would be speaking to people in the area and urged anyone who could shed light on Sanders’ behaviour or what had occurred to contact CrimeStoppers on 1300 333 000.

Meanwhile, VicRoads is working with police and the Corangamite Shire to co-ordinate closures and detours in the area. 

There is no access into Derrinallum for traffic travelling along the Hamilton Highway towards Melbourne but vehicles travelling west are able to reach the town. 

Businesses continue to operate and events including a Good Friday Appeal fun day and a three-day bowling tournament this weekend will go ahead.

Police are also hoping students will be able to resume classes at Derrinallum College next Tuesday.

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