BUSTI - Police say a man shooting explosives caused a "loud boom" heard Sunday evening throughout much of southern Chautauqua County.
The Lakewood-Busti Police Department said a 20-year-old male has admitted to shooting 18 pounds of Tannerite, the trade name for a binary explosive used in firearm target shooting. It's sold as an accessory at sporting goods stores.
The thundering sound, reportedly heard as far away as Pennsylvania, prompted dozens of calls to the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office, State Police and other law enforcement agencies. Initial patrols, though, could not locate the source of the startling noise.
Police in the Busti area began interviewing residents shortly after reports of the explosion came in around 6:15 p.m.
"This product is very dangerous and should be handled accordingly," said Sgt. Paul Gustafson, investigator for the Lakewood-Busti Police Department. Gustafson said the unidentified male - who has not been charged at this time - shot the product in a ravine on Lawson Road.
Tannerite is sold as two powders and can produce an exploding target when combined and shot with a rifle. According to its website, Tannerite is not considered an explosive until the two ingredients are mixed and thus is not illegal to purchase.
"Just go onto YouTube and you can see what this stuff does," Gustafson said. "This kid shot 18 pounds of it. It's incredibly dangerous."
Residents in Chautauqua County took to social networking sites en masse to discuss the extraordinary explosion. Many of them reported hearing multiple blasts.
Rampant rumors of the source quickly spread, ranging from the plausible thunderstorm and gas well explosion to a sonic boom caused by an unidentified flying object over Lake Erie.
"My whole trailer just shook," said Jamestown resident Janel Warner, who lives near the Falconer border. "My husband turned to me and said, 'What was that?'"
"I thought it was thunder because it was just this loud vibration. I didn't know what was going on it was that loud," Warner said.
Said Roxanne Koningisor of North Warren, Pa., "I thought my garage had just exploded it was so loud. I heard multiple booms, and everyone in my house heard it so I knew I wasn't going crazy."
Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace, meanwhile, said he is considering a countywide ban of the explosive material. The sheriff pointed to numerous incidents within the last year involving Tannerite.
"This product has caused tremendous concern among residents," said Gerace, who wasn't surprised by the large radius of the boom. "If you have enough of it and it's shot with a high-powered rifle, it will create a massive explosion. It can blow down trees."
The County Legislature's Public Safety Committee meets Wednesday in Mayville, at which time the possible ban may be explored. "The discussion needs to take place," Gerace said.
A quick search on the Internet, including the online retail giant Amazon, lists numerous Tannerite and similar products. Bruce Piatz, owner of M&M Sports Den in Jamestown, said he has sold the explosive targets within the last few months, but has not restocked the materials since then.
"I'm not sure if I am going to sell it again," Piatz said. "If people start asking for it I might. I'm just undecided right now."