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Flare gun goes off in Virginia student’s backpack aboard packed school bus

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Posted at 7:30 PM, Oct 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-26 19:30:25-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — An elementary school student’s ears were still ringing Monday afternoon, 10 hours after police say a flare gun went off in the back pack of a second grader seated two seats in front of him on a bus parked in the bus loop.

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Tanner Kunkel (Courtesy of WTVR)

“I heard a ‘boom,’ and smoke went everywhere,” said third grader Tanner Kunkel. “I was two seats behind it.”

Tanner said he heard and saw the loud pop as students were getting ready to get off the bus at Spring Run Elementary School Monday morning.

“The bus driver asked what was it, and we told her the boy had a gun,” said Tanner.

Police told CBS 6 the flare gun discharged in a boy’s book bag. Students say he had stuffed the barrel with food from his lunch box.

“He had stuffed some mini muffin from his lunch box and speaking with a guy who uses these things, it was probably enough to stop it from flaring up,” said Tanner’s dad, Jason Kunkel.

Flare guns are used by boaters and hikers in times of distress.

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Jason Kunkel (Courtesy of WTVR)

“It’s an incendiary device that creates a loud explosion so they can see and rescue you if you’re in trouble,” said Mike Winn, who works at Jordan’s Point Marina. He says it’s known that flares can burn at a temperature of over a thousand degrees.

Police say the boy’s round never caught fire, and Kunkel was told by administrators why.

“It happened to be a dud round, so the flair didn’t go off entirely, but a projectile still could’ve come out,” said Kunkel.

And that’s what worries Kunkel more than anything else. He feels students onboard the bus were extremely fortunate no one was injured and hopes the child that brought the flare gun, learns from what could’ve been a major mistake.

“Obviously this child needs to learn about gun safety,” said Kunkel. “I don’t care if it’s a flare gun. It’s a firearm that shoots a projectile.”

No charges are expected, although Chesterfield Schools spokesman Tim Bullis said in a statement, “The school division takes very seriously its responsibility to provide a safe, supportive and nurturing learning environment that is free from disruption. We value the partnership we have with parents in this collaborative work and encourage conversations about items that are not appropriate for the school setting.”