Originally created 09/26/03

Suspicious briefcase prompts bomb scare



A drama that began early Friday morning over a mysterious briefcase outside the Augusta Riverfront Center in downtown Augusta ended with a red face and a bang shortly before noon.

Augusta Fire Chief Al Gillespie found the expandable briefcase propped against the building when he arrived around 6:30 a.m. for work at the center. Soon afterward, a cadre of sheriff's officers, emergency management personnel, firefighters, members of the bomb squad and the canine corps converged.

Some five hours later and just minutes before the bomb squad was about to open the briefcase with a water charge, Southtrust Bank employee James I. Madebach arrived to claim it.

Mr. Madebach had accidentally left the briefcase on the ground beside his car after setting it down to retrieve items he had dropped getting into his car Thursday night. Someone had set the forgotten briefcase near the door of the building, according to a Richmond County deputy.

The charge was detonated anyway because it would be too complicated and risky to attempt to defuse it, officials said.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.