New Zealand chip factory calls bomb squad after ‘muddy potato’ turns out to be grenade

Alert night shift worker spots grenade trundling down a converyor belt at 3.30am on Tuesday

Shweta Sharma
Thursday 07 April 2022 11:46
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<p>File: A photo shows potatoes on a conveyor belt of a potato harvester in Godonville, central France</p>

File: A photo shows potatoes on a conveyor belt of a potato harvester in Godonville, central France

A bomb squad had to be called into a hot chips factory in New Zealand after what was thought to be a “muddy potato” on the production line turned out to be a grenade.

The explosive device was found among 28 tonnes of potatoes that were destined to become french fries during a largely automated harvesting process at Auckland’s East Tamaki Mr Chips factory.

An alert night shift worker had spotted the grenade trundling down a converyor belt at 3.30am on Tuesday in the nick of time, before it made it inside the factory.

This was the first sighting of a weapon in the 30-year history of the factory.

Richard Teurukura, the worker, was carrying out routine work of finding stones in a delivery of 100,000 potatoes when he stopped the conveyor belt to look at the suspicious-looking object, according to the news site Stuff.

Mr Teurukura first confused it with a large stone but after dusting excess mud off the object, he saw grooves and suspected it to be something else.

He then asked his colleague, who is an engineer and had “seen a lot of war movies”, to confirm his suspicions after which the area was cordoned off.

The British-manufactured “Mills bomb” hand grenade that was found in the chip factory in Auckland

The grenade was isolated and placed on a concrete car parking sleeper with the area around it restricted with tapes and cones.

The police were called in and they in turn alerted the New Zealand defence force’s explosive ordnance disposal team.

After examining the bomb under an X-ray machine, the grenade was found to be a dud used for training purposes.

It was a roughly 80-year-old British-manufactured “Mills bomb” hand grenade which was widely used in the Second World War, defence experts said.

Roland Spitaels, the Mr Chips factory’s operations manager, told the website: “It looked very much like a muddy potato originally.”

He said it was the first weapon to be discovered in the factory in its 30-year history and praised Mr Teurukura and other staff members.

“I think it’s quite remarkable he did pick it up, hats off to him for keeping his cool about the whole thing,” Mr Spitaels said.

“The guys were really calm and collected and they reacted in an extremely professional manner,” he said.

Mr Spitaels has taken a picture of the rare find to have it laminated so other workers know what to expect sometimes.

The grenade, which is now with the police, is being inspected as police said it was the second such grenade to be found in 10 years. Mr Spitaels, however, said he would eventually like to have it back for the factory’s trophy room.

There have been sightings of such grenades in potato fields in Europe in the past.

“It made for a more interesting night than we normally have,” he said.

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