SUDLERSVILLE — The patrons and employees of Darlene’s Tavern are thankful no one was hurt after a bomb dropped out of the night sky on Thursday, Aug. 29, burying itself in the parking lot just feet from customers sitting outside.
When the dust settled and local law enforcement and fire departments had been called in, the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office confirmed the object that fell from the clouds around 9:20 p.m. appeared to be a military-style bomb.
According to Maryland National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Charles Kohler, an A-10 Warthog jet from the 104th Fighter Squadron in the 175th Wing inadvertently dropped an aerial practice bomb while returning from a training mission to Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River.
The pilot of the plane had been conducting flight operations north of Atlantic City, N.J., when the national guard received indications that some of the bombs did not release from the plane properly. At that point, the pilot was told to return to base as quickly as possible by the most direct route, avoiding heavily populated areas.
The plane was traveling above Sudlersville when the ordinance came loose, landing in the gravel parking lot of Darlene’s Tavern, Kohler said.
“I walked out looking to find something that would have ignited (and) when I walked out, the hole was so deep and wide and everything that I called out everyone to look at it,” said Lena Hartlove, co-owner of Darlene’s along with her fiance, Richard Reny. She was made aware of what happened after a customer walked outside and witnessed the smoke go up.
Hartlove said, initially, she thought someone had driven by and thrown a pipe bomb into the parking lot. According to her, so did the Maryland State Police, who responded to the 911 call made from the bar.
“When the cops got here, they thought it was a pipe bomb at first also so they were looking for debris everywhere,” Hartlove said. “But then, they turned around and the hole just kept getting deeper and deeper and deeper and they thought maybe it was a meteor. Then, once they dug, they saw that it was an actual rocket.
“It was a scary thing because had it been a little bit closer, it could have hit the propane tank,” Hartlove added. “Thank God there was nobody out in the parking lot.”
Hartlove said once it was determined a bomb had fallen on the property, the bar was ordered to close and customers were asked to leave. That was when the Maryland State Highway Administration arrived with excavation equipment to remove the bomb from the ground.
“The bomb was down so deep they ended up digging it out with a backhoe,” said Hartlove, who noted SHA made sure to cover the hole back up once they removed the bomb. Dirt tread marks from the digging equipment can still be seen in the parking lot.
“Everyone was really lucky because right after it happened, a customer pulled into the parking lot,” said Hartlove. “Had they been a couple seconds earlier, they would have been done.”
After the bomb was collected by the fire marshal’s office, it was turned over to the 175th Wing Air National Guard.
“It was an unfortunate accident and we are glad no one was hurt,” Kohler said. “Our pilots are highly trained they followed proper procedures in this case. There will be a complete investigation to determine what exactly happened.” Follow me on Twitter @Jordan_BayTimes. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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