POLICE say the two foreigners killed in the bomb explosion at Tasahe, west Honiara, Sunday, had been storing old World War II explosives at their rented property.
Australian Trent Lee and Briton Stephen “Luke” Atkinson died when an unexploded ordnance detonated shortly after 7.30pm, police say.
The two men were employees of the NGO Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), which maps unexploded ordnance across the country, working alongside the police bomb disposal unit.
Head of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit within the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) Inspector Clifford Tunuki said his officers yesterday moved the bombs to the disposal site at Hells Point, east of Honiara.
Tunuki said although his unit had a good working relationship with the NPA project, they are concerned that the two men decided to conduct EOD operations within a residential area.
“RSIPF did not know WWII bombs have been moved to the NPA residence at Tasahe,” Tunuki said.
“If we had known we would have requested that the items be moved to a safe location such as Hell’s Point east of Honiara,” he added
“We have now moved all other unexploded ordnances discovered at the NPA residence to Hell’s Point as of this morning so the residence is now safe for our investigators to do their work.
“As investigations are still in the early stages we do not know what exactly happened that led to the bomb blast but preliminary investigations indicate they had several items of UXO at the residence and they may have been conducting some UXO work.”
Meanwhile, Tunuki reassured the residents of Tasahe they are now safe to continue with their normal activities.
He said a number of police units are now involved in the investigation including Forensics, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and the Serious Crime Unit.
“The Police Response Team (PRT) and our frontline offices are providing security at the site of the incident.
“The EOD team is now waiting on the results of the Forensic investigation before completing their report.”
Meanwhile, deputy secretary general of NPA, Per Nergaard, has told the international media the explosion was “a tragic accident”.
“So far, we know that there has been an explosion with fatal consequences. Our main priority now is to offer assistance to relatives and colleagues, and to clarify what has happened,” Nergaard said.
He said NPA’s activities in Solomon Islands have been suspended, and the organisation is assisting police with their investigations.