Volusia bomb squad member shares what it was like to encounter 'Mother of Satan' explosive

'It does raise the hair on the back of your neck'

By Adrianna Iwasinski - Investigative Reporter

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - Members of the Volusia County Bomb Squad are trained to handle any kind of explosive, from a homemade bomb to a powder that can ignite with the slightest touch.

But when they rolled up to a home in Lake Helen earlier this month, they encountered something normally found in terror bombs used overseas.

It is called triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, for short. It's a volatile, chemical cocktail that has earned the nickname the Mother of Satan. It looks like baking soda, but the white, powdery substance can easily explode with any exposure to heat or friction, or even static electricity. 

"It does raise the hair on the back of your neck, it does put you a little on edge," Volusia County bomb technician Joe Durney said.

Durney was part of the team that responded to the Nov. 13 call that led to the arrest of Jared E. Coburn, 37, who is now charged with three felony counts of possessing and manufacturing explosives and a destructive device.

"It was substantial enough that people would have been hurt," said Durney about the materials they discovered, which included two jars, two vials and one baggie of TATP, two homemade explosives and other bomb making materials. 

The Volusia County Sheriff's office shared pictures of the evidence found on its Twitter page.

TATP has been used by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda in several recent terror attacks worldwide, including: the July 2005 London bombing, the November 2015 Paris attacks, the March 2016 Brussels attack and the 2017 Manchester attack at an Ariana Grande concert.

Explosive experts say it was also used in the 2001 attempted attack of a U.S. airplane by alleged shoe bomber Richard Reid. 

"This stuff is nasty," said explosives expert Ryan Morris, who is a former bomb squad commander. "If it gets really dry, me just rubbing my finger over it could cause it to go off."

Morris now runs Tripwire Operations Group, and helps train first responders on how to handle this kind of dangerous, explosive chemical without hurting themselves or others.

"Triacetate triperoxide has been around since the 1800s and is very dangerous," Morris said. "It's an-ever evolving threat, so bomb squads need to be prepared for the threat."

Morris showed News 6 a small controlled sample of TATP they created, which they use for training bomb-sniffing dogs, so they can pick up the scent.

At Southern Coast K-9 in Volusia County, dogs from around the world are being trained to detect the TATP and other explosive chemicals. Daniel Cornier is the director of training and says they are constantly trying to stay one step ahead.

"The threat is always evolving," Cornier said. "Every day is different, you never know what you will be looking for out there."

The highly trained dogs are just one of many lines of detection and defense bomb squads use to alert them to potential danger, and to help keep them a safe distance away.

Then there are the robots, such as the one used to collect and destroy the chemicals found inside the room Coburn was renting at a home in Lake Helen.

Even with that, some techs still had to get up close and personal to sample and test the unknown substance and confirm it was indeed TATP.

"It's extremely alarming," Durney said. "We are trained to handle things like that, but when it happens in your own hometown, it becomes personal."

Durney said the amount of dangerous chemical they found and destroyed was substantial, and could have hurt a lot of people.

"Right down the street there was a family with kids running around," Durney said. "I mean, this guy had no care in the world."

Durney said what scares him the most are the at-home chemists and copycats who are dabbling with explosive chemicals at home, who are willing to put not only themselves but others at risk.

"Those are the dangerous ones -- the ones that are doing the experimentation -- the ones that are saying, 'Hey let's see if I can do this,'" Durney said. "Those are the ones we really are concerned about, because they pose the most danger to the public."

That danger element is also part of the reason a Volusia County judge revoked Coburn's bond and sent him back to jail to await trial. During Monday's hearing, a judge ordered an immediate psychological evaluation be conducted on Coburn. The judge said his bond could be re-evaluated at an arraignment next month.

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