Pipe bomb detonates along route of 5km US Marines charity race in New Jersey

© Ocean County Prosecutor's Office
A homemade explosive device dropped in a garbage can exploded minutes before thousands of runners were scheduled to pass the route during a 5km charity run in a coastal town in New Jersey. No one was injured in the incident, which caused little damage.

The third annual Semper Five race, the proceeds from which go to help US Marines, was slotted to start at 9:00am on Saturday, and attracted about 5,000 runners.

But some of the runners arrived late, and took extra time to sign up, and be assigned numbers, which may have “thankfully” saved multiple lives, according to officials.

The race still hadn’t begun at 9:35 a.m. when a garbage pail along the scenic route through the Bernegat Peninsula suddenly exploded, with the bomb blowing out the side of the container.

"It was a big puff of smoke, fairly large," Adam Carswell, one of the runners told the local NBC affiliate. "It makes me very angry that this could happen in a sleepy little town like Seaside Park after Labor Day."

Residents still in bed in nearby houses were also startled, one describing the impact as a “sonic boom.”

Police rushed to the scene, immediately evacuating about 30 homes located around the epicenter of the blast.

What the found inside were not just remnants of a “pipe bomb-style device,” but further explosives “wired together” that failed to detonate.

As police dogs searched the area, Ocean Country Prosecutors Office announced that there was “at least one other device” found, and urged civilians to avoid the area. Organizers said that “an unidentified suspicious backpack [was] found at the race site.”

But investigators later said that no further separate devices were located, and said that they as yet had no clear idea about the identity of the suspect.

The race was canceled soon after, forcing a restive crowd of runners to return to their vehicles, though some still decided to complete the race at their own risk or along a different route.

“I have on my bib and about to go to the 5K on my own at home. No loser will stop me from doing my part. That is not part of the American spirit!” Adriana Chizan posted underneath the Semper Five cancellation announcement on FB.

“It's just such a shame things like this exist and have to ruin a great day and great event,” wrote Stacey Medway.

Several agencies including the FBI and the NJ Bomb Squad spent hours at the site, looking for leads pointing to the identity of the bomber.

In April 2013, three civilians and a police officer died in the bombing near the starting line of the Boston Marathon, with one more cop killed in the manhunt that followed in the hours after. More than 240 people were also injured following the explosion of a pressure cooker device, another type of homemade bomb.

One of the perpetrators, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in the manhunt, while his brother Dzokhar is awaiting his death sentence, after being found guilty of helping to carry out the attack.