Goshen News, Goshen, IN

January 30, 2010

New homeowner shell shocked by discovery

Family finds live mortar in basement cubby hole

By Jesse Davis

GOSHEN, Ind — When the DeForests moved into their new home last week, they didn’t expect this kind of housewarming gift.

Late Thursday night, Wally and Linda found a live mortar round in their basement at 1922 Beckner St.

“I knew it was official because it was so heavy,” Wally said.

The approximately foot-long munition shell was initially discovered by Linda. She was hanging things on the wall and happened to see it sitting in a cubby space.

“She told me she found a torpedo,” Wally said.

Thankfully, they had some help in identifying exactly what it was from a friend of the family and honorary son Joshua Blankenship. He had just returned home Thursday after his second stint in Iraq with the U.S. Army.

“I’ve handled plenty of those things,” Blankenship said. “I just said we need to put it back in there, don’t bump it, don’t shake it.”

He said it could have been either a round for a mortar or a recoilless rifle, a lightweight anti-tank weapon, but believed it was a mortar.

“It looked very old,” Blankenship said. “It definitely looked very active. There were no drill holes (to indicate it had been disarmed).”

The couple called Goshen police Friday morning, who sent an officer to their house. After confirming what the DeForests had told them Goshen officers contacted the Elkhart Police Department’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit, the only explosives unit in the county.

“I told the bomb squad ‘please don’t blow up my house,’” Linda exclaimed.

Before taking any action, police sent the family down the street to wait and also notified all their neighbors. An officer in a protective bomb suit then entered the home, emerging after several minutes with the munition in hand. Police on scene left shortly after it had been loaded safely into the EOD unit’s truck.

For Wally, it was a time for a sigh of relief.

“I’m just glad we found it when we did,” Wally said.

Blankenship said he understood that people sometimes collect things like expended munitions or disarmed grenades and the like.

“I don’t like that kind of stuff as souvenirs,” he said.

The DeForests made another thorough search of the house and all possible hiding spots after police left, but found no other munitions or dubious items.