WW II era bazooka round pulled from Charles River with magnet fishing/ Credit: Massachusetts State Police

For the second time in less than five days, residents in Needham, Dover and Wellesley received an emergency alert from the Massachusetts State Police on Wednesday afternoon that they might hear an explosion coming from the vicinity of 135 Pine St. That’s where the MSP Bomb Squad conducted two “controlled detonations” of military ordnances found in the Charles River by people magnet fishing.

Sean Martell, who streams his magnet fishing experiences on his YouTube channel Brockton Magnet Fisher, was on the Kendrick Street bridge engaging in his hobby Friday evening when he retrieved the first piece of deteriorated ordnance. He was with others at the same location on Wednesday when they found the second item. Magnet fishing, which is growing in popularity, involves attaching a powerful magnet to a rope and lowering it into a body of water to find and retrieve metal objects. 

According to State Police spokesman Dave Procopio, the first item found, a 12 inch by 4 inch military projectile, is believed to have been from World War I or II. The second item was a heavily deteriorated bazooka round, possibly from World War II. He said they routinely deal with such objects, but they’re not usually found under these circumstances. “In our experience the recovery of an object by someone fishing with a magnet is very uncommon. Most ordnance that we are called to handle either washes up on shore, is excavated during a construction project, or is discovered during a clean out of a home.” 

WW I or II era military projectile pulled from Charles River/ Credit: Massachusetts State Police

Needham Police Chief John Schlittler said he’s seen an increase in magnet fishing, but this is the first time an explosive device has been found here. “I’ve seen it more in the last year than at any other point in my career. A lot of times they’ll find old firearms or safes or something of that nature,” he said.

Both Needham and Newton police responded to the March 1 call from Martell and notified the State Police Bomb Squad. “When they bring this type of ordnance up, it’s been in water and it’s corroded. They’ve broken down and they do become volatile,” said Schlittler. “So out of an abundance of caution the MSP Bomb Squad was called.” 

After the State Police determined the device should be disposed of, the Needham Fire Department became involved, and along with Needham police chose the area at 135 Pine St. as a safe location. “That area is out and open, there’s not a lot of people around, they can easily secure it,” said Schlittler. The Needham police and fire departments both responded to the second incident. 

Before detonating each ordnance, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) issued a public safety alert to preempt 911 calls. Schlittler said when something like this was done in another town with no alert, the 911 center was overloaded with calls. “If we don’t put it out and they hear that explosion, everybody’s gonna call us. And that ties up all the 911 lines probably in every town,” he said. “So that’s why you put it out, so people understand when they see that or they get that alert, that when they hear that bang, they now understand what it was, so there’s nothing to worry about.”

Where the vintage ordnance came from and how it ended up in that spot in the river remains a mystery. There are no records of a military base in that location. 

Procopio said its origin is anyone’s guess. “It may have been dumped in the river (either there or upstream) by someone who found it in a house clean out and didn’t know what to do with it.” 

“We ask anyone who finds anything like that to call their local police department rather than trying to dispose of it themselves.”  

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