The Office of the State Fire Marshal is offering a reward for information leading the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible after explosions that destroyed portable toilets in Westerly and Charlestown over the weekend.
The explosions were set off in the overnight hours. No injuries were reported but there was considerable damage in both incidents, according to local police. Officials said that similar evidence was collected at each site.
"It's fortunate that no one was hurt. When we arrived, there was visible debris everywhere, including in the roadway and on the neighboring properties," said Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey. The debris included the contents of the toilets.
The first explosion happened at about 12:30 a.m. Saturday at a residential construction site at 33 Maplewood Ave. in Misquamicut. Westerly police and Misquamicut firefighters arrived to find the debris and waste in the roadway and secured the area.
The state bomb squad, which operates under the direction of the fire marshal's office, was called in to assist, and Lacey said it was determined that a mortar-like device was used to destroy the portable toilet.
Lacey said the property owners were in the process of installing cameras at the home but they were not yet connected when the incident occurred.
A second and very similar incident occurred the next night in the private parking lot of the Quonochontaug East Beach Association, which is not regularly monitored after hours, according to Charlestown Police Chief Michael Paliotta. During the overnight hours of Saturday into Sunday, he said, someone entered the lot and used explosives to destroy a tan portable toilet.
"There were two portable toilets next to each other, only one was destroyed by an explosive device. The Charlestown Police Department in cooperation with the R.I. State Fire Marshal" and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating, Paliotta said.
Paliotta said a nearby fisherman had heard the explosion about 11 p.m., but did not see any fire, and the damage was not reported until it was discovered in the morning. Based on a preliminary investigation, he said, it appears the incident was related to the one the previous night in Westerly.
"Thankfully there were no injuries from this explosion," Paliotta said.
The fire marshal's office said there is no evidence that either incident was related to any sort of terrorist activity. The police said the portable toilets were valued at about $1,000 each, the police said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the state bomb squad hotline at 401-383-7723. All information will be kept confidential. A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for information that leads to an arrest and conviction of those responsible.
"Citizens are asked to remain vigilant," the state fire marshal's office said in the release. "Anyone who observes suspicious activity is asked to immediately call 911."