Man gives apology for scare at BWI Conn. resident left rental car unattended

airport closed 4 hours

November 19, 1996|By Tanya Jones and Michael James | Tanya Jones and Michael James,SUN STAFF

Anthony M. Juliano sends Baltimore his deepest apologies.

The Connecticut resident had a wonderful time touring the city in a rental car with his wife and two friends. And then, when he left, he unknowingly sent Baltimore-Washington International Airport into a panic Sunday when he left the car unattended and a bomb-sniffing dog apparently mistook a blown-out tire in his trunk for explosives.

"I feel worse than anybody," said Juliano, 36, of North Branford, Conn. "I should have taken more responsibility."

Juliano said a tire of the Buick Regal blew on the way to the airport, so he put the spare on and threw the old tire in the trunk. Then the car stalled while members of the group rushed to catch their flight, and they decided to leave the car near the terminal.

But a Maryland State Police dog named Bubba, used to check suspicious vehicles at the airport, sat down by the trunk as if to indicate explosives. That led airport authorities to call the bomb squad, close driveways and a parking garage for four hours, snarling traffic and delaying some flights.

In the end, no explosives were found in the car and it was driven back to Avis, according to authorities.

But the incident had Sgt. Jay Cash, a canine handler, scratching his head.

"We're still trying to figure this out," he said. "This is puzzling."

Juliano, a self-employed businessman who runs a New Haven tow-truck company, said authorities told him that gases from the ruptured tire could have falsely alerted the dog to an explosive.

Police said yesterday they didn't think the dogs could be fooled in such a way. Sunday's incident is the first time a bomb-sniffing dog has given an alert for an unknown reason, said Cash, who has been a canine officer since 1985.

A dog in a second canine unit brought to the scene did not react to the vehicle, Cash said.

"Then you're caught: Do you believe one and not the other?" he said.

State police canine units were called to the airport to sniff for explosives in unattended bags or vehicles 460 times in October and 554 times in September, all with no alerts, said Lori A. Vidil, spokeswoman for Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

Airport authorities followed standard operating procedure by calling the bomb squad once the dog indicated explosives in the car, Vidil said.

"We must take every possible alert by the dogs seriously," she said.

The fact that the explosives might have been contained in a car contributed to the lengthy search by bomb squad members, said W. Faron Taylor, deputy state fire marshal.

"That is one of the most time-consuming and dangerous examinations and search operations a bomb squad can perform," Taylor said. "There are just so many nooks and crannies."

The roads, closed from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and the lengthy search had some travelers loaded with baggage trudging long distances to the terminal. Some missed their flights. Some ambitious arriving passengers walked to their cars in satellite parking lots.

Police said Juliano wouldn't be charged with any wrongdoing.

"He did not commit any crimes in doing that because of some technical reasons," Vidil said. No "no parking" signs were posted at the roadway construction site. Airport workers will erect signs or block that area to parking, she said.

"We would hope that people would realize that they should not be parking or leaving vehicles unattended in a construction zone," she said.

Drivers who leave their cars unattended for even a few moments in the passenger pickup and drop-off areas, which have signs as well as police officers, could face a $50 fine and their cars could be towed.

Juliano said he told a USAir employee that he had left the car unattended near the terminal. But apparently no word was communicated to authorities.

For Juliano, it was a harrowing end to an enjoyable trip to Baltimore.

"I had a great weekend," he said yesterday. "Unfortunately, the car was the worst part."

Pub Date: 11/19/96

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