Pipe Bomb Found Near Philadelphia Train Tracks Sparks Conspiracy Theories

Reports of a pipe bomb being discovered near a train track have prompted conspiracy theories that the incident was somehow linked to recent train derailments, such as the one on the border between Ohio and Pennsylvania that led to a toxic spill.

According to the Philadelphia Police Department, a passerby spotted a PVC pipe with capped ends containing an unknown black powder on Frankford Avenue, in the Holmesburg area to the northeast of the city.

Fox News said the 18-inch bomb had been found behind the St. Dominic Catholic Church just before 1:40 p.m. ET on Sunday. Newsweek has contacted the church for comment.

A single set of train tracks sits close behind the church, across a cemetery, feeding into Holmesburg Junction station.

Philadelphia pipe bomb Ohio train derailment
St. Dominic Catholic Church on Frankford Avenue in the Holmesburg area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and smoke rising from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 4, 2023. The two incidents have been linked by social media users. DUSTIN FRANZ/AFP via Getty Images/Google

The police shut the road between Benson Street and Blakiston Lane while its bomb squad removed the suspect device, which has been taken back to the unit's headquarters for further investigation, a spokesperson for the force told Newsweek.

The incident occurred just over two weeks after a train derailed near the Ohio town of East Palestine, causing a large fire that meant five cars of vinyl chloride had to be breached and burnt off to avoid a massive explosion, officials said, sending toxic phosgene gas and hydrogen chloride into the atmosphere.

Since the spill, the Environmental Protection Agency detected several toxic substances in the soil and nearby waterways, however it has stressed that the levels observed in the air were deemed safe for humans. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the incident, and suggested a wheel bearing may have failed on one of the cars.

The two incidents have been linked by social media users, who used their near-coinciding to claim they were both either caused by domestic terrorists or were part of a government conspiracy.

Rawsalert, a news aggregator on Twitter, claimed that the pipe bomb had been found on the tracks, before clarifying it was "near" the railroad tracks. The police spokesperson said it had been found "on the highway."

"Can previous train derailments in past 2 weeks including the one in Ohio might be some terrorist activities?" Aydogan Vatandas, editor of Turkish political outlet Politurco, asked. Another train derailment—caused by a collision with a truck at a crossing—occurred in Splendora, Texas on February 13.

Responding to the news of the pipe bomb in Philadelphia, Rosie tweeted: "I wonder if the train that derailed in Ohio was from a pipe bomb?!"

"Someone needs to investigate into whether or not if a train hauling deadly chemicals [passed] the area where they found the pipe bomb," another wrote.

Meanwhile, EnchantedAngel said: "Don't be surprised when the fingerprints come back to federal agents."

The Philadelphia Police Department did not respond to Newsweek's questions about whether it had discerned a possible motive for the suspected bomb.

Update 02/21/23, 4:03 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include comment from the Philadelphia Police Department.