Vancouver police say an investigation into a suspicious device placed near the route of the city’s annual marathon delayed its start by an hour and was placed to “sow panic or disrupt the event”.
A volunteer for the BMO Vancouver Marathon, which also includes a half-marathon distance, alerted police to the device around 5 a.m. PT Sunday near Science World and promptly called 911, according to the Vancouver Police Department. .
Officers cordoned off the area and the force’s bomb technicians were deployed to examine and destroy the device.
“The emergency response team determined that the device was not at risk of exploding and did not pose an immediate danger to the public, but the start of the race had to be delayed while the device was returned inert,” a statement read.
Police did not describe what the device looked like, but said it was found near the gates of Science World about five or six kilometers along the half marathon route. Runners would have passed by.
“A very serious concern”
sergeant. Steve Addison said the force’s clearance team worked “with great caution and care…to mitigate any risk to public safety”, before determining he was safe for the start of the race.
The discovery of the device was disturbing and is now the subject of a criminal investigation, he added.
“Very disturbing, the appearance of it, where it was placed, caused very serious concern,” he said.
“We believe whoever put it there, put it there to create fear and panic, perhaps to disrupt the start of the race or have the race canceled altogether.”
Investigators from the VPD’s Major Crimes Section, Forensic Identification Unit and Operations Division are now collecting additional evidence.
Addison says investigators believe the device was planted Sunday morning. No arrests were made.
The event’s half-marathon distance was scheduled to start at 7 a.m., with the marathon taking place at 8:30 a.m.
Confusing for runners
Many runners were initially confused as to why races were delayed, but later expressed dismay when they learned of the suspicious package.
“I find it really scary, scary,” said elite runner Emma Neigel, who traveled from Lethbridge, Alta., to run the half marathon and finished third. “[It] definitely makes me feel a bit unsafe in the world, that’s for sure.”
Yutaro Kanda completed his first-ever marathon on Sunday, in less than five hours. He said he was glad the police discovered the device and made sure everything was safe before allowing the race to continue.
“It’s actually scary…simply because it’s a risk…for all runners.”
Sunday’s race marked the event’s 50th anniversary and a return to in-person racing after it was canceled in 2020 and virtualized in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marathon organizers have warned the reopening to traffic at the end of the race could also be delayed by the early police incident.
In 2019, a record 18,000 runners participated in the full marathon, half marathon or eight kilometer run at the event.