A COUNCIL cleaner sparked a bomb alert after he uncovered an unexploded hand grenade as he picked up litter from the beach.
John O’Neill was carrying out his usual patrols at Seaton Carew when he came across what he though was a chunk of metal sticking out of the sand.
He kicked it free to put to pick it up and was stunned when it turned out to be world War Two grenade.
Emergency crews rushed to the scene evacuated the beach and cordoned it off as an Army bomb disposal team was drafted in.
They then carried out a controlled explosion to detonate the device.
John, 53, said: “I was stunned. I just thought it was a chunk of metal and rock. And to think I was kicking it around. It could have gone off.!”
The dad-of-six and grandad-of-three was picking litter at the bus-station end of the beach around 600ft from the promenade, at 9.50am yesterday when the incident happened.
He said he looked at the object and then kicked it before picking it up to look at it more closely.
It was then that he noticed a pattern on the rusty metal and thought it looked like a grenade.
He then placed it in his beach tractor and contacted his boss, who then informed Cleveland Police and bomb experts from Catterick, in North Yorkshire.
John added: “I told my boss and then within minutes the beach was cordoned off and all the police were here. Not your usual day at work.”
Police taped off the beach and the area near to the Rocket House car park, while specialists detonated the grenade near to the water’s edge after partially burying it beneath the sand.
A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police said: “Explosives experts from Catterick have now detonated a Second World War grenade which found by Hartlepool Borough Council workers on Seaton Carew beach.
“The grenade was missing its safety devices and was therefore detonated well within a cordon, at the low tide line.
“Police would like to thank members of the public for their co-operation while this section of the beach was closed.”
Married John, who lives on the Throston estate, in Hartlepool, has worked for the council since 1996 and says despite cleaning the beach numerous times his previous finds in the sand are nowhere near as exciting.
A council spokesman said: “John acted with great presence of mind in alerting his supervisor Garry Jones as soon as he realised that he had uncovered a hand grenade.
“We would like to congratulate both John and Garry for the way in which they handled this dangerous situation.”