British Columbia

Police say suspicious device caused 1-hour delay to start of Vancouver marathon

Police say an investigation into a suspicious device placed near the course of the BMO Vancouver Marathon delayed its start by an hour. It was placed to "cause panic or to disrupt the event," according to a release.

Bomb technicians destroyed device before race proceeded

The start of the BMO Vancouver Marathon on Sunday morning. (BMO Vancouver Marathon/@BMOVanMarathon)

Police in Vancouver say an investigation into a suspicious device placed near the course of the city's annual marathon delayed its start by an hour and was placed to "cause panic or to disrupt the event."

A volunteer with the BMO Vancouver Marathon, which features a half-marathon distance as well, alerted police to the device around 5 a.m. PT Sunday near Science World and promptly called 911, according to the Vancouver Police Department.

Officers cordoned off the area and bomb technicians from the force were deployed to examine and destroy the device.

"The Emergency Response Team determined the device was not at risk of exploding and did not pose an immediate danger to the public, however the race start had to be delayed while the device was rendered inert," said a release.

Police did not describe what the device looked like, but said it was found near the doors of Science World about five or six kilometres along the half-marathon route. Runners would have passed by it.

'A very serious concern'

Sgt. Steve Addison said the force's bomb squad worked, "very cautiously and carefully … to mitigate any public safety risk," before determining it was safe for the race start.

The discovery of the device was unsettling and is now the subject of a criminal investigation, he added.

"The appearance of it, where it was placed, caused a very serious concern," he said.

"We believe whoever placed it there, placed it there to cause fear and panic, possibly to disrupt the start of the race or have the race cancelled altogether."

Investigators from VPD's Major Crime Section, Forensic Identification Unit and Operations Division are now collecting additional evidence.

Addison says investigators believe the device was placed Sunday morning. No arrests have been made.

Sgt. Steve Addison with the Vancouver Police Department answers questions from reporters on Sunday about a suspicious device discovered near the course of the BMO Vancouver Marathon. (GP Medoza/CBC News)

The event's half-marathon distance was supposed to have started at 7 a.m., with the marathon going at 8:30 a.m.

Unnerving for runners 

Many runners were initially confused about why the races were delayed, but later expressed dismay when they learned about the suspicious package.

"I just find that really skin-crawling, creepy," said elite runner Emma Neigel who came from Lethbridge, Alta., to compete in the half-marathon and finished third. "[It] definitely kind of makes me feel unsafe in the world a little bit for sure."

Yutaro Kanda completed his first-ever marathon on Sunday, finishing in under five hours. He said he's glad police found out about the device and made sure everything was safe before allowing the race to go ahead.

"That's actually scary … just because it's a risk ... to all the runners."

Sunday's race marked the 50th anniversary of the event and a return to in-person racing after it was cancelled in 2020 and went virtual in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marathon organizers warned that the reopening of traffic at the end of the race could also be delayed by the early police incident.

In 2019, a record 18,000 runners participated in either the full marathon, half marathon or an eight-kilometre run at the event.

with files from The Canadian Press