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New River Explosion Site Had "Caches of Explosives" in the '90s

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An Environmental Protection Agency document from the late '90s states "caches of explosives" were found at the New River ranch where a man lost his leg in an explosion this week.

The former owner of that ranch, Charles Byers, who manufactured explosive devices at the site, told a TV station in California this week he's certain that no explosives were left at the site. Although it seems like quite the coincidence, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office investigators still aren't sure whether this week's explosion was related to the old munitions-maker.

See also:
-Explosion Takes Man's Leg at Old Site of Munitions Maker

This EPA document, however, explains what ATF agents did after federal authorities raided and seized Byers' ranch in 1997. Byers had lost his license to manufacture explosives -- which he sold to government entities -- a few years earlier, when he was convicted of charges for sending payments to a Navy officer in exchange for a contract to buy grenades from Byers.

The part of the property that became subject to a public controversy was one shed, which contained about 800 pounds of unidentified chemicals, and 60 to 80 pounds of explosives. There ended up being a debate over whether to blow up the shed, although federal authorities eventually turned over the property to the state. The state ended up removing the chemicals from the property.

However, according to this EPA document, a lot of explosives and chemicals were found outside the shed. After four tons of chemicals were removed from the property in 2007, the ATF "found additional caches of explosives on the property" -- more than 2,000 pounds worth.

There's no detail as to where these other explosives were found, although there is a reference to a couple hundred pounds of explosives being found in a "bunker."

On Monday, a man who was outside a house on the property, apparently trespassing, stepped on something that exploded.

Two other people were living at the house, although MCSO says none of them was supposed to be there. An MCSO spokesman said the search of the property was being taken very slow, and nearly a day later, they hadn't even made it into the house.

MCSO sent out an e-mail update to media yesterday, explaining that there was no update.

The Sheriff's Office hasn't been able to rule out a link to the old munitions-maker, but an old New Times article describing the safety practices -- or lack thereof -- at the munitions-making site probably won't quell that concern.

Check out the EPA document on the next page.

EPA New River

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

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