Homes evacuated after suspicious items are found in home of deceased eccentric Friend's find in Overlea is harmless military stock

March 25, 1998|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A dozen homes in Overlea were evacuated yesterday morning after a man cleaning the home of an eccentric friend who died recently found mysterious gas cylinders and military X-ray tubes marked "explosives."

The suspect hardware turned out to be surplus military equipment that was not dangerous or explosive, authorities said.

John Hoopes found the tubes and cylinders in the home of his longtime friend, Frank Veirs, who died last month at age 69. Veirs left behind a decrepit house in the first block of McCormick Ave. filled with what Hoopes said was 35 tons of trash -- 8 feet deep in places -- and gaping holes in the ceilings.

Hoopes, the administrator of Veirs' estate, said his friend of 40 years never threw anything away -- including empty Valentine candy boxes, ice cream containers and even the little paper numbers shoppers take at deli counters.

Although the house had no hot water, Veirs kept five hot water heaters in the basement, none of them hooked up. Hoopes said he also found 800 cans of tuna fish stored in the house and in some of the nine rusted cars that he removed from Veirs' driveway after his death.

Hoopes, who lives in Harford County, said he was cleaning his friend's home this week when he found four gas cylinders, which "I knew I couldn't throw in a Dumpster." Yesterday morning he found four old duffel bags containing 2-foot-long tubes and with a tag that read: "X-ray, explosives."

"We didn't touch them. We called the Fire Department," said Hoopes.

Baltimore County Fire Battalion Chief Mark Hubbard said firefighters began evacuating a dozen homes after they were called shortly after 9 a.m. Some residents went to a nearby school and a community center for the few hours they were told to stay away from their homes.

James Geibel, a bomb technician for the Baltimore County Police Department, said he determined the equipment was safe after consulting with explosives experts at Fort Meade.

Hubbard said the canisters contained a gas called sulfur hexaflouride. The canisters were taken away by workers from the Maryland Department of the Environment. Fort Meade officials agreed to dispose of the old X-ray tubes.

Hubbard and other officials said they did not know why Veirs would have the old equipment or what he would have done with it.

Veirs' home sits on a quiet street of modest houses. Hoopes said Veirs and his parents -- now deceased -- moved in when the house was built in the 1940s. Today, the house is an eyesore, its white paint peeling so badly the house looks more gray than white, with tinges of green from mold on the siding.

Inside, Hoopes and cleaning crews have removed the trash to get the home ready for sale.

All that remains are antique radios with the insides pulled out, old typewriters, Christmas decorations, an old sewing machine, a piano with its works missing -- and the five hot water heaters in the basement.

Pub Date: 3/25/98

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