Boston explosion eyewitness: It smelled like gunpowder

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2013 — A former U.S. Army lieutenant was attending a post-race party on the third floor of a building close to the finish line of Boston Marathon at the time of the explosions. In an exclusive conversation with the Washington Times Communities, Bruce Mendelsohn said that “the concussion blast blew me off my chair,” and the smoke from the explosion “smelled like gun powder or cordite”.

“I’m not a forensics guy” says Mendelsohn, who stated that he separated from the military in 1993 after serving in Germany and along South Korea’s DMZ. However, he says that the white smoke he saw and odors smelled following the explosion in Boston were identical to that from gunpowder or cordite “that we used all the time on the range.”

“The blast was near LensCrafters” says Mendelsohn, who was attending a post-race party next door at Marlo Communication/Marketing, 667 Boylston Street, where tattered “Marlo” banners where still hanging off the building after the explosion.

Cordite is a low explosive in use since the 19th century. “Thankfully the windows were open” says Mendelsohn, explaining that if the third floor windows had been closed that the glass would have likely turned into shrapnel.

Mendelsohn, who is originally from the Washington D.C. area and is now the Director of Communications and Outreach at M.I.T.’s Gordon Engineering Leadership Program, was a spectator at the race, where his younger brother had finished the marathon in under three hours.

Mendelsohn says he had earlier seen “lots of security on the V.I.P. side,” but not on the spectator side. 

SEE RELATED: Which terrorists were behind the Boston Marathon bombings?

NBC News is reporting that the University of Mobile’s Cross Country Coach Ali Stevenson saw “law enforcement spotters on the roofs” at the start of the race, bomb sniffing dogs at the start and finish lines, and that “they kept making announcements to the participants do not worry, it’s just a training exercise.”

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said “a large number of officers were patrolling the area near the finish line, and explosives teams patrolled it twice.”

News breaking from the blast site is that authorities have recovered the lid of the pressure cooker that held one of the bombs. Speculation is that one of the bombs, filled with nails, ball bearings, and metal pieces was left along the curb where spectators stood. 

In other news which may or may not be related to the Boston explosions, an envelope addressed to Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss) seems to contain the substance ricin, an extremely potent poison.

“Preliminary tests indicate the substance found was ricin,” said the police statement, which was released late Tuesday night. “The material is being forwarded to an accredited laboratory for further analysis.”


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Alan Jones is an investigative journalist covering a wide range of areas.  He has worked in the financial industry and has lived overseas.


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