Boy, 11, burned after chemical bomb thrown at Lowell school
LOWELL - An 11-year-old boy suffered minor burns and got chemicals in his eyes when another boy threw a chemical reaction bomb, also known as a "soda bomb" outside of the Cardinal O'Connell Alternative School in Lowell on Monday afternoon.
Police said the boy who allegedly threw the device will be charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, unlawful possession of an explosive device, and trespassing after notice. Police did not release that boy's age.
The injured boy, 11-year-old Nicholas Desanogueira, is a student at the Butler Middle School who walks past the O'Connell on his way home each afternoon, according to his sister, Simone Leite, a 16-year-old girl who spoke with her father's permission.
Leite said her brother told her over the telephone that he was just walking past the O'Connell when another boy threw the bomb and struck him.
The boy's father, Djair Desanogueira, went to Boston Medical Center with Nicholas to have tests performed on the boy's eyes, and said that as of Monday night those tests showed no permanent damage.
"He's able to read and see at a distance," Djair Desanogueira said.
Deputy Police Superintendent Arthur Ryan said police were called to the O'Connell School, at 21 Carter St., at 3:12 p.m., shortly after students were released for the day, for a report that a small explosion had injured someone.
One neighbor of the school said he was outside but didn't hear anything since he was using a leaf blower. Another neighbor said he heard what sounded like a firecracker. Neither man reported seeing anything until after police arrived.
Police quickly realized they were dealing with an explosive device, so they requested assistance from the office of State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan.
Coan said an investigation has determined the device that exploded was a chemical reaction bomb, also known as a "soda bomb." Such explosive devices are illegal, and can come in many varieties.
"These are fairly common devices that kids tend to experiment with," Coan said. "There are plenty of recipes on the Internet for them and this time of year when the weather is good and the kids are out it tends to be some kind of rite of passage, it seems."
Djair Desanogueira lamented that despite everything he has tried to warn his children about, something unexpected can still cause injuries. Simone Leite, Nicholas' 16-year-old sister, said her brother told her over the phone that another boy threw the device. Nicholas' friends then grabbed his phone and called his parents.
"My brother went to the hospital with his face bandaged up and he said his eyes were burning," Leite said. "I spoke to him after and he was the same kid he always is, very jolly and happy, but he got upset when he heard me cry."
"He's making sure everyone is strong," Leite said. "He said he could see but it hurt really bad to open his eyes."
Superintendent Jean Franco confirmed both boys attend Lowell schools. She could not comment on potential school discipline against the boy who is facing charges.
Franco said school officials and police do not believe there is an ongoing threat to other students, but that there will be a police presence at the O'Connell on Tuesday to reassure parents and students.
"We take this very seriously," Franco said.
Coan said such devices can be made fairly easily with readily available materials, but that no one should be deluded into thinking they are safe.
"There is no predictability to these devices," Coan said.
Not only are such devices unpredictable, Coan said some of the recipes for them on the Internet are actually "booby-traps" - recipes posted by malicious actors hoping to harm whoever builds the device. Such booby trap devices are designed to explode immediately, harming the person making them, according to Coan.
"I don't know how to stop them from doing this other than to indicate there is no safe way to manufacture any type of explosive device," Coan said. "Secondly, that they expose themselves to the potential for serious injury from these types of devices."
Coan said such devices are frequently found around the state.
"They are very prevalent," Coan said. "This isn't the first one we've responded to this month and it's not going to be the last."
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