Suspicious package at Hearst Castle is investigated by bomb squad

ktanner@thetribunenews.comOctober 3, 2013 

Visitors walk the grounds outside Hearst Castle’s signature facade.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

A suspicious package addressed to Hearst Castle triggered an investigation at the state park in San Simeon by the San Luis Obispo County Bomb Task Force on Wednesday afternoon, resulting in the discovery that the package contained a peculiar mix of rocks, electrical wiring and clothing.

“It was extremely heavy, more than 100 pounds,” said Nick Franco, superintendent of the State Park district that includes the castle.

About 2:10 p.m., a UPS delivery driver reported to State Park rangers at the castle that a package in his truck — scheduled for delivery to the castle’s maintenance shop, which serves as a package-receiving area — appeared suspicious.

Franco said in an interview that Ranger Jared Miechtry confirmed the peculiar nature of the package, which was a heavily duct-taped piece of black carry-on luggage. Rangers called the bomb squad, and employees were evacuated from the area.

Public safety is a top priority for the department, according to a news release about the incident. Franco said, “California State Parks staff trains regularly and collaboratively with other agencies to most efficiently serve the safety of the public.”

Fortunately, the maintenance shop is away from public areas, including the Visitor Center, Franco said. However, the bus-fueling area was shut down, since the shop is close by.

A Task Force robot X-rayed and remotely opened the package. “You’ve got to love robots,” Franco commented.

After technicians determined that the contents posed no threat, the package was handed off to State Parks for further investigation, starting with tracking down who shipped it and the ultimate aim of finding out who sent it.

Franco said both the “to” and “from” addresses were “odd … and the return address doesn’t exist.” He said initial investigation seems to indicate that the package originated from the Santa Cruz area, but that hasn’t yet been confirmed.

He said was unsure what charges might be filed if and when the sender could be identified. “We’ll have to see where all this leads.”

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