By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES, May 30 (Reuters) - A Disneyland employee was charged on Thursday with possessing a destructive device by prosecutors who said he was behind two small, dry-ice explosions at the California theme park earlier this week that prompted an evacuation of Mickey’s Toontown.
Christian Barnes, 22, was arrested at the park on Tuesday evening after police responded to the second blast near a Toontown trash can and found remnants of a water bottle that had detonated there.
During a brief arraignment in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, Barnes pleaded not guilty to a single count of possessing a destructive device in a public place. He was ordered held on $500,000 bail pending a June 7 pretrial hearing in the case.
Prosecutors with the Orange County District Attorney’s office said Barnes, who sold drinks at a vending cart outside Toontown, is accused of being in possession of two dry ice bombs made out of water bottles but was charged with only a single count.
One of the bottles exploded when Barnes opened the cart as he was being relieved from his shift by another employee sometime after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said that as Barnes walked toward an employee break area he took a second water bottle filled with dry ice from the cart and placed it in a trash can in Toontown, a theme area designed for younger children to visit the cartoon-style homes of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters.
The bottle exploded several minutes later, after a custodian removed the trash bag from the can and put it on the ground. The loud bang prompted park officials to evacuate the area.
There were no reports of damage or serious injury from either of the blasts.
A Walt Disney Co spokeswoman has said the incident appears to have been a prank and that the theme park was working closely with local authorities. She said the company was considering whether to suspend or terminate Barnes.
Disneyland, located in Anaheim 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles, is Disney’s original theme park and one of the top tourist attractions in the United States.
The 57-year-old park attracted more than 16 million visitors in 2011, the most recent year for which statistics were available, according to the trade group Themed Entertainment Association.