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TYOK Alex Bonato bomb disposal diver
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a bomb disposal diver

Written by
Danielle Goldstein

...according to Alex Bonato, 29.

Old bombs turn up on a weekly basis

Whether it’s a large bomb, like the one found earlier this year in the Thames near City Airport, or a small projectile or grenade, we average about six a week. A lot of building sites in the city, especially in east London, are required to have an Explosive Ordnance Disposal survey guy there at all times, so if they do find something they can say whether it is or isn’t explosive. Otherwise you’d end up calling the police or army every time, only for it to be a bit of old pipe.’

The Thames is a difficult dive

There’s zero visibility in certain areas because the water is dirty. And when you’re working on the bottom, the sediment is so soft that any movement creates these clouds and then it’s completely pitch black. But that’s what we’re trained for. In basic training there’s an exercise where you’re blindfolded and you have to distinguish between different bombs and mines. By touching it you can figure out what kind of fuse it is and what’s going set to it off.’

Tiredness is the toughest part of the job

Sleep deprivation can be a big thing because we have to work in conjunction with the tides, waiting for them to be in our favour. That means we could have to be up in the middle of the night or really early, especially in London, which is extremely tidal. There will be times in the job when you’re working solidly for 20 hours.’

Water pistols can take out bombs

If we come across an IED – an improvised explosive device – the method we’d  use to disrupt it or render it safe would be to fire a really powerful water gun at it. I was really shocked to find out that we smash water through IEDs, but it works!’

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