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Archive for Friday, August 18, 2006

West Virginia terminal evacuated

Tests find no evidence of explosives in suspicious liquid in luggage

August 18, 2006

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— A West Virginia airport terminal was evacuated Thursday after two bottles of liquid found in a woman's carry-on luggage twice tested positive for explosives residue, a Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman said.

Chemical tests later Thursday turned up no explosives in the bottles, said Capt. Jack Chambers, head of the State Police Special Operations unit. The airport was reopened after nearly 10 hours.

"It looks like there were four items containing liquids," said TSA spokeswoman Amy von Walter. A machine that security checkpoint screeners use to test for explosives registered positive results for two containers, and a canine team also had a positive hit, she said.

The TSA screening looks for a range of explosives residue, some of which can be found on common household items, said TSA spokesman Darrin Kayser.

Airport manager Larry Salyers said he was told the woman was a 28-year-old of Pakistani descent who had moved to Huntington from Jackson, Mich. He did not know how long she had lived in Huntington.

No charges were filed against the woman, who was taken from the airport by federal authorities at 5 p.m., Salyers said.

The woman was very cooperative, officials said.

Commercial airline service was suspended, and about 100 passengers and airport employees were ordered to leave the terminal, said Tri-State Airport Authority President Jim Booton.

Wayne Bloss, of Huntington, W.Va., carries his suitcases out of the Tri-State Airport in Ceredo, W.Va., after the airport terminal was evacuated Thursday. Bloss missed his flight to Orlando, Fla., earlier in the day and was told he could return later to retrieve his luggage. Two bottles of liquid found in a woman's carry-on luggage twice tested positive for explosives, a Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman said. But later tests found no explosives in the bottles.

Wayne Bloss, of Huntington, W.Va., carries his suitcases out of the Tri-State Airport in Ceredo, W.Va., after the airport terminal was evacuated Thursday. Bloss missed his flight to Orlando, Fla., earlier in the day and was told he could return later to retrieve his luggage. Two bottles of liquid found in a woman's carry-on luggage twice tested positive for explosives, a Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman said. But later tests found no explosives in the bottles.

Two airlines - Comair and US Airways Express - serve the airport.

A screener noticed a bottle in a woman's carry-on bag as she was going through security before her 9:15 a.m. flight to Charlotte, N.C., Booton said.

One bottle contained a gel-type facial cleanser, Killeen said.

"Anytime a prohibited item is brought to a checkpoint, then you are going to be immediately more interested in that bag," Kayser said.

The flight was allowed to leave for Charlotte, and the terminal was evacuated at 11:25 a.m., officials said.

The woman had purchased a one-way ticket to Detroit by way of Charlotte on Wednesday, Salyers said.

After the evacuation, many passengers decided to stay and wait it out.

U.S. authorities banned the carrying of liquids onto flights last week after British officials made arrests in an alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound planes using explosives disguised as drinks and other common products.

Some travelers were more surprised than fearful about the discovery.

"This is such a small airport. I never imagined something like this happening here," said Shannon Bloss, who was traveling to Orlando, Fla., for a wedding.

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