A reported bomb scare Wednesday morning spurred the evacuation of Midway Middle School and a lockdown at nearby Liberty Elementary.
A Midway Middle employee fielded a call before 8 a.m. from an individual who said “a device” had been left in a vehicle at the school, according to Liberty County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Hodges. State and county police converged on the scene shortly after 8 a.m., as students were arriving.
Nearly 1,000 children and staffers were taken by bus to Liberty County High School, where they were served lunch, according to a news release issued by Liberty County School System Assistant Superintendent for Operations John Lyles.
“The circumstances dictate whether an evacuation or lockdown is implemented. While the principal has the authority typically, the final decision is a collaborative effort between school administrators, central-office administrators and emergency responders,” Lyles said.
Notifications of the incident were sent to parents via the school system’s “One Call” system, according to the assistant superintendent.
“Four notifications were sent during the crisis, and two notifications were sent after we received the ‘all-clear’ from the emergency responders,” he said.
Parents with proper identification were allowed to pick up their children, and the remaining students were delivered home at Midway Middle’s regular dismissal time.
With the campus clear, authorities combed the premises and discovered a suspicious vehicle that had been reported stolen in Savannah parked at the wood line behind the school, according to Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes. A device inside the car was examined by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation explosives team and was found to be a propane tank with a pipe attached to it. Wires extending from the pipe at first appeared to be attached to the car’s doors, but the team used a robot to gain entry and determined the wires were not attached to any part of the vehicle, according to EMA Assistant Director Larry Logan.
The “all-clear” was sounded around 1 p.m., after authorities removed the car. Chief Deputy Jon Long called the scare an “elaborate hoax.”
At about the same time as the bomb scare, an attempted robbery was reported at Interstate Unlimited Credit Union, which is about 3 miles down Highway 84 from the schools. Officials said they have robbery suspects in custody, but they could not say whether the two incidents are connected.
Courier staffer Denise Etheridge and freelancer Lewis Levine contributed to this report.