Police are highlighting the dangers of picking up old military items from the Birubi sand dunes after a man and a young girl received shrapnel wounds when ordnance found at the beach exploded in their Anna Bay home.
Port Stephens-Hunter Police District Inspector Brian Tracey said it was “fortunate” Ryan Glen, aged 37, and his 4-year-old daughter were not seriously hurt in the explosion that rocked Morna Point Road about 10pm on Monday.
“These items wash up very often and what happens, and quite sensibly, is that people contact their local police and say they’ve seen an item that they believe to be an unexploded piece of ordnance,” he said.
“He’s [Mr Glen] picked that up from the beach and taken it to his home. It could have exploded at any time. We’re very thankful that it only resulted in superficial wounds not serious injury or death.”
Inspector Tracey said it was unclear what the ordnance that exploded was, but it is believed Mr Glen found it earlier on Monday when he had been fossicking near a former World War II weapons range within the sand dunes at Birubi Beach.
Mr Glen and his daughter received shrapnel wounds to their lower limbs when the ordnance exploded.
Neighbour Chris McCarthy went to the aid of Mr Glen after hearing the explosion. He said it appeared to have blown shrapnel into Mr Glen's leg.
“Me and the neighbour next door ran over,” Mr McCarthy said. “He'd let off a charge and it hit him in the leg.
“He was just crying out in pain from where the shrapnel had hit his leg.”
Mr McCarthy, who has lived in Morna Point Road for more than a decade, said Mr Glen was “a good young fellow”.
“They're good neighbours,” he said. “The young boy, Ryan, would help you in any way he can.”
Another nearby resident, Sue Tarrant, said she heard a “massive big bang”.
“I thought it was a gunshot,” she said. “It was loud. I thought I could hear screaming.”
A Hunter New England Health spokesman said on Tuesday Mr Glen was in a stable condition in hospital.
But the health authority would not give an update on the condition of his daughter. Police said on Tuesday the girl was undergoing surgery for the injuries she received to her hip and legs in the explosion.
It was unclear on Tuesday whether Mr Glen would require surgery. He has not yet been interviewed by police.
Following the explosion, the pair were treated on scene by paramedics before being taken in a serious but stable condition to John Hunter Hospital.
The house was secured by police and technicians and the Department of Defence attended. Police said defence responders collected “several items” and took them away for safe disposal.
A bomb disposal dog was to complete a final sweep of the house, which received minimal damage in the explosion, on Tuesday “to make 100 per cent sure there’s no more weapons or unexploded ordnance at the scene”, Inspector Tracey said.
“The residents surrounding that residence can be safe in the fact no more explosions will occur,” he said.
“The message we want to get out to the public is it’s quite obvious when you attend the beach from Birubi to Stockton that if you see any items that are quite apparent not to be driftwood… that if it looks like a bomb or it’s old rusty metal that they don’t touch it.
“Just give us a call. We’ve got some tried and true practices with our bomb and rescue squad in conjunction with the Department of Defence to attend the scene, render those items safe and dispose of them securely.
“We attend, bomb and rescue and the Department of Defence attend the scene and secure that item and make it safe for people to go about their daily business.”
ALSO READ: Dog plays fetch with unexploded WWII mortar