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Freak industrial accident blamed for explosion near temple

April 7, 2011 |  1:21 pm

An incident initially reported as a pipe bomb explosion near a Santa Monica synagogue was actually a freak industrial accident, authorities said.

"We're absolutely positive it was not a terrorist act or a hate crime," Santa Monica Fire Capt. Judah Mitchell said.

He said a 300-pound metal pipe encased in concrete was in a plastic bin with construction debris. The bin was located in a walkway between the Chabad House and a guest house behind the synagogue's neighboring home.

Some type of chemical reaction propelled the pipe into the air and through the roof of the guest house, about 25 feet away. Mitchell said the cause of the reaction is under investigation, but officials made clear that they do not believe it was an intentional act.

The pipe remained stuck in the roof for several hours until firefighters removed it, revealing a gaping hole.

The side of the temple suffered some minor damage where the object apparently ricocheted.

Meanwhile, synagogue members tried to reassure frantic family members who had seen reports of a bomb. Mirel Levitansky, whose husband Eli is a co-rabbi at the temple, said she got calls from as far as New York and Israel.

"By 10 o'clock, I had received 10 calls from family and friends, worried, asking if everything was OK," she said.


No bomb or foul play in blast near Chabad House in Santa Monica 

-- Abby Sewell in Santa Monica

Photo: Santa Monica firefighters remove construction debris that had been catapulted into the air and through the roof of a nearby home by a freak explosion. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times