Loudoun County Public Schools outside of Washington, D.C. said the CIA regrets overlooking a “combat-type explosive” that was left in a school bus engine compartment last week following routine training.
Speaking to School Transportation News Friday morning, district spokesman Wade Byard declined to identify the type of explosives, citing CIA concerns over national security, but he did say that the material can only be activated via a specialized blasting cap. An official Loudoun County Public Schools statement on the incident said the CIA “assured Loudoun officials the training material used in this exercise is stable and posed no danger to students on board the bus.”
Byard declined comment when asked if the district was aware the CIA would be involved in the training exercise, but he added that the district realizes local authorities regularly work with many agencies. Additionally, the district’s close proximity to Washington, D.C. often puts it in contact with Homeland Security and other federal government officials.
“We were obviously concerned about finding this material on our buses,” he said. “The CIA expressed sincere regret.”
The district met Thursday afternoon with the CIA, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office and the county administrator’s office regarding the incident and suspended any further training exercises with the district until a “thorough review of all procedures is completed.” Byard added this will include developing new protocols.
The CIA also released a statement outlining changes to its training operations.
“To prevent such incidents from happening again, CIA has taken immediate steps to strengthen inventory and control procedures in its K-9 program,” the agency released Thursday. “CIA will also conduct a thorough and independent review of CIA’s K-9 training program. CIA performed a full inventory this morning and accounted for all the explosive training material used in the K-9 training program.”
The school bus was lent to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office last week during the district’s spring break for a “routine training exercise with law enforcement” that included a CIA K-9 unit as well as the county fire marshal's office. The training was held at Briar Woods High School last Tuesday through Thursday, Byard added.
A district statement on its website explained that during the bus portion of the training exercise, a container holding the explosive material was hidden inside the engine compartment. At some point, the statement continues, some of the material appeared to have fallen from the container into the engine compartment. When the training was over, officials then failed to recover all of the material that fell from the container, and three canine units that inspected the bus also missed it.
The bus returned to route service on Monday and Tuesday when classes resumed. Over those two days, the district said the vehicle made eight runs over the two days that covered 145 miles with 26 high school and elementary school students on board. Then, on Wednesday, district transportation maintenance staff found the explosives material in the engine compartment during an inspection.
Byard told School Transportation News that the staff members are ex-military and immediately recognized the material.