A 68-year-old woman picking up litter Thursday morning along the dam at Santa Rosa?s Howarth Park was injured when a plastic soda bottle rigged as a bomb exploded in her hand.
Colleen Schultz suffered cuts to her face and neck and injuries to her right hand, including a broken finger, said her husband, Ronald Schultz. She spent most of the day being treated at a local hospital.
?She had surgery on her lip to close a tear up to her nose,? he said. ?Her tongue was split a couple of inches, and they fixed that. Lots of lacerations. It really could have ripped open her throat.?
Santa Rosa police said the bottle may have contained dry ice or acid, common ingredients in soda bottle bombs.
?It was a device designed to explode at some point,? said Sgt. Lisa Banayat.
The explosion occurred at 9:37 a.m. north of the Lake Ralphine boathouse, near the popular park?s main parking lot off of Summerfield Road, police said.
Authorities closed off the dam, boathouse and docks to investigate, and called the Sonoma County Sheriff?s bomb squad, which detonated a second soda bottle found nearby, Banayat said. She did not provide any other details about the second bottle.
Banayat said bottle bombs of dry ice or acid can detonate any time after they are made.
She said the bomb squad searched the area before reopening it to the public, but if anyone finds a plastic container that is bulging or distended, they should leave it alone and call 911.
Colleen Schultz told police the bottle she found appeared to be about half full of liquid when she picked it up.
?She was very fortunate,? her husband said. ?She had the dog sit at the top of a little slope and went down to collect some garbage. She looked up at the dog just as the bottle exploded.?
Ronald Schultz said his wife?s injuries soaked her sweat shirt with blood, and believes if she had been looking toward the bottle, may have been blinded by explosion.
Three men fishing on the docks described a single, loud report that they first thought might have been someone shooting at water fowl.
?It was a large explosion. I mean a really loud explosion,? said Bruce Conrad of Santa Rosa.
?It sounded like somebody was hunting something,? said J.J. Boylan.
Conrad called for emergency help while other witnesses tended to Schultz.
Police collected evidence and interviewed witnesses, but encourage anyone who may have seen suspicious activity at the park before the explosions to contact police.
?And if they see any bottle containing liquid that appears to be bulging, they should call 911 and describe what they see,? Banayat said.
Schultz said she lives nearby and often walks her dog in the park, collecting litter along her way.
?My wife was just being a Good Samaritan, picking up trash,? Ronald Schulz said.
This was not the first time a homemade explosive has been found in Howarth Park.
In July of 2003, two men on a morning walk were injured by a small explosive device that had been set as a booby trap. That device, a modified firework, had a fishing line tripwire stretched across a footpath so it would detonate when someone walked by. The men suffered cuts and scrapes in the explosion.