BWI finds passenger's grenade, delays flights

Japanese businessman's souvenir seen by X-raying

October 31, 1999|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

It was just an $8 souvenir innocently stuffed into a suitcase by a Japanese businessman headed home, but it inconvenienced thousands of people yesterday morning and delayed flights out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport for three hours.

The souvenir was a hand grenade.

Sho Matsunaga, 49, of Takasago, Japan was making his way through security at BWI's Pier C at 5: 30 a.m. when the grenade was seen in the X-ray machine, said Betsey Sanpere, the airport's public information officer.

Because Matsunaga does not speak English, airport security had difficulty conversing with him, Sanpere said.

Not dangerous

Security cleared all passengers within 300 feet of the area and delayed flights scheduled to leave Pier C while a robot removed Matsunaga's luggage and examined it in a remote area of the airport, according to Sanpere.

When it was discovered that the grenade had been hollowed-out and was not dangerous, normal operations at the airport resumed at 8: 25 a.m.

The Maryland Transportation Authority Police questioned Matsunaga through an interpreter and decided not to charge him. Matsunaga, who works at a research and development center in Japan, had been in Maryland on business and had purchased the grenade in a gift shop.

"The gentleman did seem quite surprised," said Cpl. Gregory Prioleau, an MTA public information officer.

No souvenir

Matsunaga missed his flight to Dallas, the first leg of a trip back to Japan, but he will be flying out today -- without the grenade, said Prioleau.

Departing flights on Southwest, Northwest, America West, Continental and American airlines were delayed.

Passengers on incoming flights were given the option of getting off planes onto the tarmac and walking to another pier, or waiting until normal operations resumed.

"It does go to show that our security screening devices work very well," Sanpere said. "They can see the shape and they know what the shapes are."

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