A MECHANIC today told how he felt sick after thinking he had discovered a home-made bomb in the boot of a car.
Part of Poulton was brought to a standstill yesterday as hundreds of people were evacuated from their workplaces after the device was discovered by Stephen Johnson while he was repairing a Mercedes in his workshop.
It took experts almost two hours to confirm the package was merely a prop built for a fancy dress party and to sound the all clear.
Police were called to Aldon Coachworks at Aldon Way on Poulton Industrial Estate just before 11am and cordoned the site off while bomb disposal experts were called in.
Nearby residents were also advised to evacuate their homes, trains between Preston and Poulton were halted and Garstang Road East was closed between Moorland Road and Bracewell Avenue.
Staff from the coachworks, a body repair garage, reported the wired device contained liquid and nuts and bolts and looked chillingly real.
The car had been in Aldon’s care for two weeks and had been driven and worked on by a number of their staff.
Stephen Johnson, 56, was carrying out body work on the vehicle when he opened the boot to discover items wired together, looking like a bomb.
The mechanic said: “I’ve never seen anything like it before, I felt a bit queasy in the stomach.
“It was a suspicious package, it looked like a bomb.
“It was wired together, there was a bottle with liquid in it and nuts and bolts stuck in the side of the bottle.
“I can’t understand why anyone would have that in the boot of their car.”
After cordoning off the scene, police called in Army explosive ordinance disposal units to identify whether or not the object was dangerous.
Stephen Whittaker, 33, who was also working on the vehicle, said: “We went to get parts out of the boot and that’s when he found it.
“It’s like the stuff you see on the news. It didn’t look good, it could have been really dangerous.”
Director Dave Halliwell, 56, called police after inspecting the package.
He said: “I’ve never seen anything like it before.
“From what I saw I decided to call police to be on the safe side, it looked very suspicious.
“I decided not to contact the owner of the car.”
Dozens of officers were called to the scene and businesses around the industrial estate were asked to evacuate.
Dave Cumming, 27, a fitter at EVTS next door to Aldon Coachworks, said: “A police officer came in and said we need to evacuate because there was a bomb scare.”
Workers and staff at other businesses said they were not given a reason for the evacuation.
Matthew Spence, assistant manager at FX Leisure on Premier Way, said: “Our gardener came in and said police were closing the estate down. They said they couldn’t disclose the reason at the time. We had about 100 people in.”
Chris Pettigrew, 31, service manager at Chris Allen Garages, added: “At first the road was closed off, and we were advised to go back into our building due to a suspicious object.
“The next minute we were asked to evacuate. The Aldon Coachworks lads told us it was a bomb scare.”
Around two dozen workers from the estate, who gathered at its entrance near Garstang Road East, were asked to leave the area for their safety as the wider area around the garage was cordoned off.
Trains between Blackpool and Preston were stopped as the drama unfolded, as the line runs close by the industrial estate. NHS staff were also evacuated from their building.
The owner of the suspicious package was taken on to the estate by police officers to assist with inquiries.
The cordon was lifted at around 1.40pm, half an hour after bomb disposals experts had arrived on the scene, and residents and workers were allowed to return to their properties.
A spokesman for Lancashire Police said the investigation found the device had been made as a prop for a fancy dress party.
He added that although the package had been designed to look like a bomb it had not been done with malicious intent and the owner had been spoken to by officers after it became clear there was no danger.
The spokesman said: “We recognise the effect this operation had on people and we apologise for the disruption.
“However, given the circumstances we faced it was necessary in order to ensure the safety of the public.”