Usually, a day at the beach is fun, but this family encountered something that they thought was harmless, but later realized they were lucky to be alive. A family in Wales went to the beach and saw what they thought was an old, barnacle-encrusted buoy. The old ball of rusty steel had washed up on the shore near Burry Port in Wales.
Kelly Gravell reported that she, her husband, and their two children went to the local beach for a picnic on August 12th in 2015 when the kids noticed that something had washed up on the shore. She states, “My children took their boogie boards down and we were going out to the sea…We saw a large object on the beach, so we thought we’d have a little look.”
Kelly didn’t think of being cautious and warning the children to stay away because according to her, they regularly see objects wash up on the shore of that beach. The couple just thought that the old spherical object was a harmless buoy. She said, “We never thought for one second it was a bomb.”
Her children Erin, 6, and Ellis, 4, sat next to what they thought was a buoy and posed for photos. Kelly explains that the family was fascinated by the barnacles on it. She added, “My son was touching it and was knocking on it a little bit, and that was it really.”
The family then left the beach entirely unaware of the danger that they had placed themselves in. Only a few days later, Pembrey Country Park made an urgent announcement on their Facebook page.
They revealed that what the family had thought to be a buoy was actually a United States military bomb. The Gravell family had been playing with a bomb that could have detonated and killed them.
Kelly said that she and her husband, Gareth, didn’t actually see the post themselves. In fact, they were alerted about this news by a friend. Apparently, the friend had seen their Facebook pictures and put two and two together.
Kelly and her husband were shocked to realize that they had been standing right beside a sea mine, and could have been killed at any second if it had gone off. It disturbed them greatly that they were sitting in such close proximity to it.
According to Allison Thomas-David, press and communications officer for Carmarthenshire County Council, it’s actually quite a normal occurrence to see objects washing on shore in the area where this mine was found.
“It very much looks like a buoy, which we get on the regular, but around it was gooseneck barnacles,” she said. “Of course as the barnacles started dropping off, that’s when we could see writings exposed.”
Though the family got close to the mine, they didn’t notice the writing on it. Had they gotten a better look, it may have been more clear to them that what they were looking at wasn’t actually a buoy.
It turns out that the bomb was actually a World War II era sea mine. Kelly said that she even made a joke that it was a big bomb at the time, but she said that they didn’t really think much of it.
She said, “We were more fascinated by the barnacles on it. It’s only afterward when the reality had set in that we were actually very lucky.” And lucky they were, the impact of its detonation could have had a devastating impact.
While Thomas-David could not absolutely confirm what was printed on the bomb, she did say that they knew for a fact that the object was indeed explosive and had to be disposed of immediately.
The mine had to be secured and later the local bomb squad was brought in. Thomas-David states, “This was picked up by the coastguard who then notified the bomb squad.” She adds, “obviously we evacuated the beach straight away.”
She also assured, “it detonated in a controlled explosion 6 p.m. Monday evening.” Gravell said she and her family went down to watch the detonation together. The entire incident is not one that this family will soon forget.
She added that in light of their experience, they will be more careful if they see items wash up onto the beach. As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry and that is especially true in this case.
Hundreds of thousands of sea mines were deployed during World War ll. After the war, the US navy was unable to collect all of them. Over thirteen thousand were deliberately left unswept.
These mines were left unswept over the course of 30 years. More than five hundred minesweepers were sunk or damaged severely trying to dispose of the mines that were left over.