New York blast
File photo: An NYPD robot places an unexploded pressure cooker bomb into a spherical chamber on 27th Street, hours after an explosion nearby in New York City on 18 September 2016. The New Jersey pipe bombs are believed to be connected. Lucien Harriot/ Reuters

Donations are pouring in for a homeless man and his friend who are being hailed as heroes for finding a backpack filled with bombs in New Jersey. A GoFundMe page has surpassed its $10,000 goal to reach more than $18,000.

The two friends, identified as 50-year-old Lee Parker and 56-year-old Ivan White, have been named heroes by the mayor of Elizabeth, New Jersey after they spotted a black backpack near the Elizabeth train station on Sunday (18 September).

"It was a plain Jane average book bag," Parker told the New York Daily News, adding, "What I thought was a plain Jane average book bag." Parker, who was searching for a new bag, picked it up and quickly realised the bag was anything but average.

"There was something quite odd about this bag. it was 30, 40 pounds," he said. Parker said he opened the bag and found wires, pipes and a box labelled C-5. White, a Navy veteran, realised Parker had just found some explosives.

The friends raced to a police station and returned with four officer who looked inside and came to the same conclusion. Investigators said the backpack contained five pipe bombs they believe are connected to the explosions in Chelsea and the Jersey Shore, the Daily News reported.

Police used a bomb-defusing robot to remove the package but mistakenly triggered one of the explosives. The Daily News reported that no one was hurt in the explosion.

In a press conference, Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage hailed Parker and White as heroes who "probably saved hundreds of people. Boll wage noted that the bag was about 500 feet from a pub. "If that pub was crowded and there was a lot of people there, it could have severely injured, killed and maimed many, many people," the mayor added.

According to USA Today, an independent nonprofit called At Heart's Length is collecting the donations for Parker and White. A third of the donations will go to the Elizabeth Coalition for the Homeless.

The GoFundPage page said the charity has already been able to place Lee in a home and are working on finding a permanent home for him. White, who lives on a fixed income, will receive a third of the donations.