Same suspect arrested in bomb threat, arson
As Indian River School District staff and students counted down the days until spring break, the Howard T. Ennis School faced another bomb threat – its third in the last month – and a bus fire.
Former school bus driver David C. Detwiler, 38, of Seaford, had been arrested in March for allegedly telephoning bomb threats to H.T. Ennis and to Georgetown Elementary School on successive Tuesdays. And Detwiler is now charged in connection with the arson of three busses and a second bomb threat to H.T. Ennis.
The bus fire was reported Tuesday, April 3, at 11:06 a.m. in Georgetown. The buses were not on school grounds when they caught fire. Their drivers had already taken students to school and parked the buses at a different location. According to the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Georgetown Fire Department responded to the report of a fire, finding a bus on fire, with flames extending to two adjacent buses. No injuries were reported in the incident, but damages have been estimated at $250,000.
Soon thereafter – about 12:15 p.m. – police said, Detwiler allegedly placed a phone call to Howard T. Ennis School, stating there was a bomb inside the school. The students and faculty were again evacuated from the school, and bomb-sniffing K9s were again called in to search the building. No suspicious items were located, though, and the school was deemed safe to re-enter.
Then, on Wednesday, April 4, about 11:09 a.m., police said, a DSP detective was patrolling H.T. Ennis when he observed a vehicle similar to that owned by Detwiler driving by the school. Detwiler had been court-ordered not to have contact with any school within the state of Delaware as a condition of his release after the prior arrest.
The detective obtained registration information that confirmed the vehicle belonged to Detwiler and conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle in the parking lot of Delaware Technical & Community College’s Georgetown campus. Detwiler was driving the car and alone inside, Further investigation determined that Detwiler had made the phone call to the school on April 3, police said.
According to DSP, Detwiler was taken into custody and transported back to Troop 4 in Georgetown. He was then transported to an area hospital due to a health issue unrelated to the incident, police reported. Detwiler was formally arrested upon his release Monday, April 9, and committed to Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington.
Between those filed through the police and fire marshal, Detwiler will face 20 charges: one felony count of terroristic threatening; two felony counts of non-compliance with conditions of a bond; 12 misdemeanor counts of reckless endangering (due to the risk of injury involved in quickly moving students with severe disabilities during an evacuation); one charge of second-degree arson; three charges of third-degree arson; and one charge of criminal trespass.
Detwiler had been arrested Tuesday, March 13, on two charges of terroristic threatening for bomb threats allegedly made to Georgetown Elementary School earlier that day and to H.T. Ennis on Tuesday, March 6. During both of those incidents, the schools were safely evacuated, and nothing out of the ordinary was found.
DSP traced the phone calls to Detwiler’s phone, arrested him at home and released him from Sussex Correctional Institute in Georgetown after he posted a $6,000 secured bail.
In March, at the time of the first bomb threats, Detwiler was employed as a school bus driver for an independent company that serves IRSD. Nearly all IRSD busses are owned by independent contractors, except for a few special service vehicles.
As an employee, Detwiler transported students for both Howard T. Ennis School and Georgetown Elementary, Gary Brittingham, IRSD assistant superintendent, told the Coastal Point in March. Detwiler had begun driving in September, and had no apparent motive.
IRSD spokesperson David Maull said that students were dismissed early April 3, and all after-school activities were canceled.
Howard T. Ennis serves students who have moderate to severe disabilities, which makes evacuation not only challenging, but risky. As a result, Detwiler faces those 12 counts of reckless endangering, due to the risk of them being injured in an evacuation.
“The staff up there just does a tremendous job,” emphasized IRSD spokesman Dave Maull. “Both times they’ve got kids out safely.”
Throughout the emergency, H.T. Ennis parents were notified through an automatic phone system, he noted.
“I think I sent out four calls that afternoon, just keeping them posted on what the situation was, what happened, that the kids were safe and that if you want come pick up your kids, here’s where,” said Maull.