Real Names: David and Doris Young
Case: Unexplained Phenomenon, Hostage Situation, Accidental Bomb Explosion
Date: May 16, 1986
Location: Cokeville, Wyoming
Details: David Young was a deranged former Cokeville cop who was fired for misconduct. On May 16, 1986, he and his wife, Doris, invaded a classroom at Cokeville Elementary School and held 136 children and 17 teachers hostage with a crudely built homemade bomb. He believed the school was actually brainwashing the children and demanded two million dollars for each of them. Otherwise, he said he would explode the bomb and lead them to a brave new world. He also threatened to shoot anyone that tried to run away.
Police and distraught parents arrived at the school within minutes. However, little could be done to save the children and teachers. When one of the children tried to grab Young, he became upset. The teachers decided to put tape around an area near Young and the bomb, telling the children not to cross the tape or go near him. The gasoline fumes from the bomb made several children sick. The teachers asked to open the windows, and the Youngs allowed them to do so.
The children and teachers began praying and hoping for a miracle. This apparently agitated Young; he decided to hand the triggering mechanism to Doris. By then, the children were in the room for over two hours. They were restless and would not stop talking. This bothered Doris, who began gesturing carelessly despite having the triggering mechanism attached to her arm. When she gestured too far, the bomb exploded. The children began to escape through the windows and the front door of the classroom. Teachers helped injured children out of the windows.
Within minutes, investigators were in the classroom. There, they found Doris' body. Young was found in a bathroom; he had committed suicide before he could be captured. Incredibly, not a single child or teacher was killed in the blast, although 79 were injured. Many believe that a miracle saved the hostages that day.
Investigators found several reasons that the number of casualties was so low. First, the children and teachers were shielded from the most severe part of the blast, as they stayed behind the tape left on the floor near the bomb. Next, with the doors and windows open, much of the force from the blast went harmlessly outside. Finally, they found several problems with the bomb. One of the containers of blasting powder had become thoroughly soaked, turning it into a useless paste. Detonation wires to other tubs of powder had been inexplicably cut.
The people of Cokeville are convinced that a miracle saved the hostages. Some of the younger children spoke of seeing "angels" hovering above the room. The angels even told them to move away from the bomb. The sheriff also claimed that before the blast, a voice told him that everything was going to be okay. Finally, a mysterious photo of what appeared to be an angel on the north wall proves to many that something was there that day, protecting innocent lives.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the December 13, 1996 episode. It inspired the book When Angels Intervene To Save The Children: The Cokeville, Wyoming Bombing Incident by Hart Wixom. It was followed by the movie To Save The Children starring Richard Thomas and Robert Ulrich. It was also documented on It's a Miracle, Unexplained Mysteries, and I Survived. In 2015, a film, Cokeville Miracle was released based on it.
In the recreation, David Young was played by actor and B-Movie icon Bill Moseley from the film, "Prisoners in Ghost Land."
Results: Unsolved. David and Doris were killed in the blast.
- The Cokeville Elementary School Explosion on Wikipedia
- The Cokeville Elementary School Explosion on WyoHistory.org
- Couple takes over school but dies after bomb blast
- 10 Years Later, Cokeville Just Says: Let Us Be
- Cokeville recollects "miracle" of 1986
- 25 years after school bombing, Wyoming town remembers story of survival