Ordinary items trigger bomb scare at airport
Security officials at Pittsburgh International Airport discovered a recipe for chaos Wednesday morning. Just put three snow globes, a stack of record albums and a cell phone charger in a suitcase. Then try to get it through a screening machine.
“Just by happenstance they lined up in a certain way that made the screening machine think it was an explosive device,” Allegheny County police Assistant Superintendent Paul Wolf said. “Once we looked at it with our equipment, we could tell it was safe.”
But authorities shut down the Findlay airport for 35 minutes and 120 people had to be evacuated from the Landside Terminal, delaying some flights as police examined the suitcase and interviewed the unwitting passenger who packed it.
The federal Transportation Security Administration notified the airport about 6:15 a.m. that an explosive-detection machine had “detected a suspicious explosive device” in a bag that had been checked on the ticketing level, airport spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said.
Wolf said the enhanced X-ray image from the machine showed glass bulbs that looked like batteries, a wire — from the phone charger — and a dense stack of material — the records — that could have formed a bomb.
“It was a good decision to evacuate based on what the TSA saw and the threat assessment,” he said. “It just turned out to be common household items.”
Officials declined to identify the traveler who had checked the luggage. Wolf said he was interviewed and proceeded with his flight.
Jenny said the evacuation had a minimal effect on flight schedules, causing “slight delays” as airlines held a handful of planes for the evacuated travelers.
“The bulk of US Airways flights don’t depart until 8 or 8:15, so those passengers probably were just arriving when we got the ‘all-clear’ from police,” she said.