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Old boiler triggers false alarm in Rosia Bay, but ‘better safe than sorry’

The Royal Gibraltar Regiment’s bomb disposal team was called to Rosia Bay to deal with a suspect package on Wednesday morning it after a call from a member of the public.

The suspect package was entangled in cabling but ultimately turned out to be harmless.

Even so, Colour Sergeant Malcolm Head said its “always better to be safe than sorry.”

“The item was called in by a member of the public and as far as I'm concerned it is the right call.”

“He’s not sure what it is.”

“He's not sure if there's any risks to anybody else.”

“So as far as I'm concerned, that member of the public that phoned in did the absolute right thing.”

Encouraging others to do the same, he added: “If you don't know what it is, we'd rather come out and do our job and make sure everybody's safe then hear of the results of something that someone didn't call in."

Following a call to their Control Room just before 10am, the Royal Gibraltar Police declared an emergency incident at Rosia Bay.

The caller, who did not give their name, told officers there was a “suspicious box with wires” floating in the water.

Police officers were immediately deployed to Rosia Bay and asked a few people fishing in the area to leave the jetty before closing the beach to the public.

HM Custom’s vessel Seeker was also dispatched to the area to prevent any vessels from entering the bay.

At the same time, officers in the Control Room alerted the Royal Gibraltar Regiment’s Bomb Disposal Team, the Ambulance Service, Gibraltar Fire and Rescue and the Royal Navy.

The item – thought to be an old boiler - was an aluminium drum with wires and expanding foam around it and turned out to be harmless, according to the Royal Navy’s Chief Petty Officer David May, who is part of the Command Diving element on the South Mole.

“It has been in the water for a while and has been battered on the rocks and everything else. Proper identification is quite difficult because it is in a battered state,” he said.

The military diver was the first person tasked with investigating what exactly the package was.

“I got into the water from a distance away so I could make an approach on to the suspect device,” he said.

“Once I got close enough, I could have a good look underwater as well.”

“I was lucky enough to be able to look up inside because it is hollow, and you can see there was just a few bits of litter floating inside.”

“There was quite a lot of wire attached to the outside on expanding foam, but I do not think that was by design.”

“That was just something that had happened before it entered the water.”

The navy diver confirmed there was no power source attached to the device and traced the wires entangled around it to confirm they were harmless, after which a line was attached to pull it out of the inner harbour.

Checks of this nature are potentially more dangerous in the sea, where specialists are wearing diving suits rather than protective armour.

But their training and knowledge allows them to carry out the necessary inspection in a safe manner.

The response protocols are also different for suspicious devices below the high-water line.
Commissioner of Police Richard Ullger said: “I would like to thank all the services involved for their quick response and great teamwork during the incident this morning.

“This is a good example of how we can all put into practice the procedures for when dealing with a real incident of this nature.”

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