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'Bomb' destroyed in N. Bergen after rail-township battle

(The following story by Michaelangelo Conte appeared on the Jersey Journal website on September 6.)

NORTH BERGEN, N.J. — With a threat of a bomb on board a CSX train rolling through New Jersey yesterday afternoon, company officials allowed it to continue on to North Bergen, angering local officials, who argued that the train should have been stopped in a less populated area.

The woman who made the original call yesterday morning alerting authorities that a bomb could be on board later said it was a hoax, though police did find a package containing an electronic device and were still trying to determine last night what it was.

"To add insult to injury, they uncoupled the cars and took their train away so they could make the rest of their deliveries and left the car here," Mayor Nicholas Sacco said yesterday afternoon at the mobile command center set up a Home Depot on Tonnelle Avenue.

"It's because they have the ability to do things like this without caring about the local and state officials."

A spokesman for CSX last night said the company had worked closely with several law enforcement agencies and made the decision to send the train to North Bergen because it was the safest place to send it.

"North Bergen offered the safest, most secure facility at which to stop the train and inspect the container," said Gary Sease, a spokesman for CSX.

At 9:45 a.m. yesterday, a woman called police saying her ex-boyfriend had sent her a package with a 9-pound explosive in it and it was aboard a train coming from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said North Bergen Police Capt. Gerald Sanzari.

Township officials got word of the train heading their way at 3 p.m. when a CSX worker at the company's North Bergen yard flagged down a cop, Sanzari said.

Police set up the command center and began trying to get the train stopped, while putting together an evacuation plan for the area, which is also the site of a large gas main, Sanzari said.

CSX officials agreed to uncouple the car around 56th and West Side to keep it away from the gas line and the rest of the train moved on, Sanzari said. That's when Jersey City and Bergen County bomb squads started going through the 1,200 parcels in the car looking for the one the caller referred to, Sanzari said.

At 6 p.m., township officials were told that the woman had said her call was a hoax, Sanzari said.

The bomb squads used a water cannon to destroy the package at about 7:50 p.m., Sanzari said.

Monday, September 8, 2008

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