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RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit detonates 1980s dynamite stick unearthed near Banff Springs Hotel

Prairie Pride Construction owner Murray Hunter said workers figured out what they uncovered could potentially be dangerous pretty quickly, as the device had "explosive" written on its side

BANFF – Tuesday night kicked off with a bang at the Banff Springs Hotel after the RCMP's Explosive Disposal Unit from Edmonton detonated a stick of 1980s dynamite found by a construction crew doing roadway excavation work.

Uncovered by Canmore-based  Prairie Pride Construction, crews were excavating for a water and sewer line along the roadway of Spray Avenue, past the hotel's bus and RV parking area, when workers exposed an explosive device around approximately 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon (Dec. 17).

"It was an explosive used for blasting rocks," Prairie Pride company owner Murray Hunter explained over the phone. "We called 911, secured the site and called the hotel."

Hunter said workers were able to figure out that what they uncovered was potentially dangerous pretty quickly, as the device had "explosive" written on its side and the site supervisor recognized the drill hole beside it.  

"The construction crew did the right thing," said Banff RCMP Staff Sgt. Michael Buxton-Carr. "They halted their work and called the first responders, leaving it to the hands of the experts." 

Buxton-Carr said RCMP do not suspect the explosive device was there as a result of suspicious activity, as it is an ammonium nitrate device that is consistent with use prior to excavation work.

"There is no indication that anyone had any malicious intent, any intent to cause harm or any intent to damage the hotel," Buxton-Carr said.

According to Fairmont's public relations regional director Lynn Henderson, there was no impact on employees or guests.

"Yesterday a stick of dynamite from a 1980s construction project was found as a road near the hotel was being excavated. The area was cordoned off and the RCMP Explosives Unit in Edmonton was called in to diffuse it," Henderson wrote in an email.

With Banff RCMP and the fire department already on scene, the Explosives Disposal Unit arrived around 10 p.m. and detonated the device at approximately 11:20 p.m.

"It could have been a lot worse," Hunter said.

Banff Fire Chief and director of protective services Silvio Adamo provided an update at Wednesday's (Dec. 18) Governance and Finance Committee meeting, telling council members they might have heard the "bang" in the night.

"It is dealt with, there are no injuries and no damage to infrastructure ... we hope it is the last one we encounter," Adamo said at the meeting.

It is not the first time this year a construction company has unearthed something interesting during work in Banff.

In February, a bison skull was found by Fortis Alberta on Lynx Street in Banff. Working with the Town of Banff and Parks Canada, the skull was repatriated to the Blackfoot Nation.

It is also the second time an explosive device was found in the national park this year. A Parks Canada employee found a detonated improvised explosive device in a public garbage bin at the Carrot Creek parking lot in February.

At the time of the incident, Banff RCMP officials said they did not know what the intent of the suspect was, as there was nothing to suggest it was a targeted attack against Parks Canada, or to promote a cause.

After the homemade explosive device was found, Buxton-Carr reminded the public to be vigilant and safe if they encounter IEDs.

"I really want to be sure that people who find such devices are aware of potential dangers of unexpected detonation. The best thing they can do is back away a distance, be present to warn other people not to approach and to give us a call immediately," Buxton-Carr said at the time.

Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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