Destructive device forces evacuation of Fla. airport
Airport was evacuated after police found suspicious packages in garage, terminal; Jacksonville Sheriff spokesman says one was taken offsite due to destructive nature
By Derek Kinner
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville International Airport was shut down for several hours after authorities found two suspicious packages — one they said was destructive — that led to an evacuation.
There was no immediate word early Wednesday about arrests and travelers were advised to check with their airlines regarding flight information.
The airport was evacuated around 6 p.m. Tuesday after police found a suspicious package in the terminal and another in a nearby parking garage. It reopened just before 11 p.m.
During a late-night news conference, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office spokesman Shannon Hartley said one of the packages “had some destructive nature” and was taken offsite. He did not elaborate.
Hartley also said he could not confirm local media reports that two suspects had been arrested.
Passengers and people who arrived at the airport to pick them up were stranded for hours as officials investigated.
Authorities said some incoming planes were held up on the tarmac until buses arrived to pick up passengers. The passengers were shuttled to nearby hotels.
With the airport reopening late Tuesday, airport spokesman Michael Stewart said individual airlines would determine how to restart their operations. “The airlines will work to ensure all passengers will receive their luggage,” the airport tweeted on its officials Twitter account.
Arlie Gentry was on a Southwest flight arriving from New York via Baltimore just before 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“We moved from one spot on the runway to another spot,” said Gentry, who was reached on his cell phone while still on the plane. “They told us we couldn’t get off the plane.”
Gentry said the pilots initially told passengers they didn’t know what was going on.
While the delay was cumbersome and bothersome, Gentry said everyone on his plane remained calm. He said he was never really concerned for his safety, because the plane remained so far from the terminal.
Around 9:30 p.m., a bus arrived to take the passengers on Gentry’s flight to a nearby hotel.
He said his sisters had been waiting in the parking lot for several hours and were planning to take him back to Gainesville.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press