Bomb in Tahoe City injures four
Kenneth Jon Manuel pleaded innocent Tuesday to six charges in connection with an explosion that injured four people in Tahoe City on July 4.
During the arraignment, Judge Alan Pineschi set bail for $100,000.
Manuel, 29, a Kings Beach resident and former ski patrolman at Ski Homewood, allegedly placed a homemade two-pound explosive in a traffic cone near the Tahoe Yogurt Factory and set it with a 90 second fuse, according to a release from the Placer County Sheriff’s Department.
Four victims walking by the cone at the time of detonation, 9:15 p.m., were taken to Tahoe Forest Hospital and treated for shrapnel wounds and lacerations.
According to Sgt. Bill Langton with the Placer County Sheriff’s Department, Manuel was arrested after a fireman from the North Tahoe Fire Protection District recognized him as one of the individuals trained to handle explosives at the ski area.
“It was an eagle-eyed fireman whose been trained to watch a crowd,” Langton said.
The fireman, whose name is being withheld because he is a material witness, was securing the crime scene when he saw Manuel ,whom he used to work with at Homewood, hanging around the scene, Langton said.
Manuel was then questioned by authorities.
“A bomb technician questioned him and he lied. He said he didn’t know anything about explosives,” Langton said. He also said that Manuel, licensed to handle explosives, apparently forgot that the bomb technician interviewing him had signed his licensing card.
“The tech played along with him but he (Manuel) finally admitted that he did have bomb experience,” Langton said.
Following a search of Manuel’s residence, which revealed several additional pounds of explosives, blasting caps, safety fuse and igniters, he was arrested.
“After a second interview following his arrest, he confessed,” Langton said.
According to Langton, an investigation revealed that Manuel apparently stole several pounds of explosives during the 1997-98 ski season from Ski Homewood while he worked there.
“We are convinced the explosives are from Homewood,” Langton said. “This guy (Manuel) said that’s where they’re from and the stuff he has is exactly what Homewood uses.
According to Langton, the four victims were approximately 25 to 30 feet from the site of the explosion at the time of detonation.
“If they had been right on it they probably would have been killed,” Langton said. “It was a big, big boom. I was up on Dollar Hill and you could feel it and hear it from up there. I would not have wanted to be one of those four people walking by at the time.”
A nursing supervisor at Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee said three of the four victims were treated and released Saturday night.
One victim, C.R. Powell of Truckee, was kept at the hospital overnight and was listed in stable condition Sunday afternoon. He was released on Monday.
“I’m in good shape, I’ve just got a bunch of holes in me,” Powell said. “It could have been a lot worse, I could have lost a hand or a foot.”
Powell, 24, said he was walking near an alley by the Yogurt Factory in Tahoe City when he heard and felt the explosion.
“The first thing I felt was the concussion,” Powell said. “My jeans were in tatters and my sweatshirt had huge holes in it.”
According to a release, Powell received multiple open wounds to his back, arms and legs. He underwent surgery to remove several pieces of shrapnel.
The other victims were Alicia Louise Wilke, 22, of Tahoe City, Melinda Jeanne Prohaska, 24 of Tahoe City and Martin Lee Hauser, 25 of Alpine Meadows. All received lacerations and shrapnel wounds and Wilke is also having difficulty hearing, the report said.
Langton said he isn’t aware of any motive the suspect may have had to set off a bomb and said he has no idea why an individual trained in explosives, would allegedly detonate two pounds of it.
“It was just a bonehead move,” he said.
The explosion occurred just before the popular annual fireworks show in Tahoe City, where thousands of people had gathered. The blast was heard and felt two miles away.
Numerous windows, buildings and vehicles were damaged in the vicinity of the explosion.
A preliminary hearing for Manuel has been set for 1:15 p.m. July 20.
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