PHILLIPS — When a SAD 58 bus driver spotted what appeared to be a pipe bomb attached to the underside of a bus early Tuesday — later identified as a nonexplosive training device — it became a safety drill for the school district and law enforcement.
Classes were canceled for the day at Phillips Elementary School and law enforcement agencies were called to investigate when the device was found at about 6 a.m.
The training device consisted of five PVC pipes wrapped in duct tape and attached to the bus with a magnet, Maine Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said Wednesday.
The reserve bus was parked in a lot next to the school.
The Maine State Police Bomb Squad, fire investigators from the Office of the State Fire Marshal and Franklin County deputies responded.
The pipes were removed and two were detonated, McCausland said. When they did not explode and it was evident they wouldn’t, they were examined more closely and marks were found that identified them as a device left from a safety training event, he said.
School bus drivers have to participate in safety training twice a year, SAD 58 Superintendent Brenda Stevens said.
“The device was retrieved and identified as a [Maine Association for Pupil Training] device,” she said. “Our drivers participate in MAPT training sessions twice a year. All district personnel responded appropriately. Thankfully, it turned out well and provided us with a good drill.”
The organization is involved in bus safety and provides training exercises to show bus drivers what to look for, McCausland said.
The bus with the device was not used in the most recent training in April, he said. He did not know how long the device was there, but it looked like it had a lot of road dirt on it.
One theory was that the device was there for a while and somehow slid down so it could be seen, McCausland said.
David Leavitt, support services director for RSU 9 in Farmington and president-elect of MAPT, said that bus apparently had not been used in training exercises for five or six years.
The training pays off, Leavitt said. The bus driver was checking another bus when he noticed the device hanging down.
“That is part of our training,” Leavitt said. “I think it is important that people understand that bus drivers are trained to look for this type of stuff. It showed our training does work.”