Gas canisters spark scare in KC

Sunday, June 12, 2005

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Workers clearing debris from a downtown arena construction site found three canisters stamped "chemical warfare gas," but officials later determined the canisters -- one of which discharged -- posed no health hazard.

The cylinders likely contained tear gas for vault protection, police said.

No businesses were evacuated, but police initially shut down streets in the area and a hazardous materials team hosed down four workers who were near the cylinders. Traffic continued to move on nearby Interstate 670, which runs along the south side of downtown.

The cylinders, attached to the door frame of an old vault, were discovered Friday morning in rubble near a former Mexican restaurant. They were about 6 inches long and about as wide as a 50-cent piece, police Capt. Rich Lockhart said.

The cylinders were punctured to release any remaining gases.

Jeff Lanza, an FBI spokesman in Kansas City, said some older safes were equipped with a device that emitted a type of tear gas if someone tried to drill into them. That system of vault protection is no longer in use, he said.

Lanza also said the FBI was not familiar with the vault discovered Friday, and he did not know how long it had been at the site.

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