Va. theater explosions point to coordination

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WASHINGTON — The exploding soda bottles in a busy movie theater complex point to coordination, according to officials in Fairfax County, who have submitted the bottles for analysis.

The soda bottles, filled with an acid and other chemicals, exploded in two different theaters — just moments apart.

Early Sunday morning, movie goers at Tysons Corner Center AMC Theaters in McLean heard loud bangs.

Some believed it was gunfire. Others thought it was an explosion. In all, about 2,000 people at the complex got out in what the fire marshal’s office called “controlled chaos.”

Theaters 8 and 3 — where they went off — are roughly 30 yards apart.

“Both devices were placed kind of at the end of a long walkway with a protective wall, just as you enter the stadium seating in both theaters,” says Deputy Fire Marshall Mike Reilly.

No suspects have been taken into custody, and the Fire Marshal’s office is appealing to any potential witnesses who may have seen suspicious activity, such as mixing chemicals in a restroom.

The manufacturing and detonating of the devices are felonies.

“These are commonly referred to as MacGyver bombs,” Reilly says. “It creates an over-pressurization, a very rapid, exothermic pressurization, in which the vessel comes to failure fairly quickly, and it explodes in a very violent manner.”

The strength of these explosive devices could blow off the fingers of a person holding them, Reilly says.

No one was injured in either theater early Sunday morning.

While speculative, the Fire Marshal’s office believes more than one person may have been involved. The most credible lead in that direction involves the near- simultaneous explosions in different theaters.

The chemicals mixed in the soda bottles don’t have a designated time fuse, which may point to at least two people preparing them at the same time.

In a statement, AMC Theaters says movie goers who were at Tysons Corner may use their ticket stub as a pass to another showing at any AMC in the area.

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