The CIA confirmed that “explosive training material” was accidentally left aboard a school bus in Virginia following a K-9 training exercise last week.
Dozens of elementary and high school students in Loudoun County were aboard the bus traveling to and from school on Monday and Tuesday before the inert explosive was discovered, according to school officials.
Wayde Byard, the public information officer for Loudoun County Public Schools, said the principals for three schools (Rock Ridge High School, Buffalo Trail and Pinebrook Elementary) called the 26 affected students; the district sent an email in English and Spanish to more than 80,000 people to explain what happened.
Roughly a dozen parents from the community expressed concern, but the school district was not inundated with calls, he said.
“They have been very understanding. We live in an area with a lot of federal employees, a lot of Homeland Security employees,” Byard said in an interview with Yahoo News. “They are very aware of the world we live in and why this is necessary. Because we understand it, doesn’t mean we’re pleased with it. We’re not.”
The explosive material was part of a training exercise with a CIA K-9 unit during spring break (March 21-24) at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Va. The dogs were taught to detect explosives in and around the school.
During this exercise, part of the material fell from its container into the bus’s engine compartment, where it remained until Wednesday.
Kraig Troxell, the public information officer for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, told Yahoo News that it was found during routine maintenance of the school bus.
The CIA and Loudoun County explosive experts say the training materials are “incredibly stable” and the students on the bus were not in any sort of danger.
The CIA performed a “full inventory” Thursday morning and accounted for all of the explosive training material used during the exercise, according to a statement from the agency.
“To prevent such incidents from happening again, CIA has taken immediate steps to strengthen inventory and control procedures in its K-9 program,” it reads. “CIA will also conduct a thorough and independent review of CIA’s K-9 training program. CIA performed a full inventory this morning and accounted for all the explosive training material used in the K-9 training program.”
Later in the day, representatives from the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office and other local government offices met with CIA officials for about two hours to discuss what went wrong and how to avoid it going forward.
They subsequently announced that this specific training exercise has been suspended until a review of all its procedures is finished.
During breaks, Byard said, the FBI, ATF, county sheriff’s office and other organizations typically perform drills like these to prepare for active shooters or terrorist attacks.
“We do practice this a lot. It is necessary,” he said, “When something like this happens, it is unfortunate, but we can’t abandon it because it is the world we live in.”