Souvenirs cause section of airport to shut again

Disarmed grenades lead to evacuation of 300 at BWI

November 21, 1999|By Dan Fesperman | Dan Fesperman,SUN STAFF

For the second time in three weeks, passengers carrying harmless souvenir grenades in their luggage shut down part of Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday morning, delaying departing flights and forcing the evacuation of about 300 passengers.

The first grenade turned up just after 7 a.m. at the security entrance to Pier C, in a carry-on bag of a U.S. Air Force lieutenant. Its discovery resulted in the evacuation of about 250 passengers from the pier's 16 gates. The State Fire Marshal's bomb squad moved in to investigate, while Southwest and Northwest airlines moved planes to Piers B and D.

A half-hour later, a second grenade turned up at the entrance to Pier A, in the carry-on bag of a soldier in Thailand's armed forces. Forty more people were evacuated from an additional three gates, and the bomb squad was summoned again.

Both piers reopened at 8: 49 a.m., according to Deputy Chief State Fire Marshal Bob Thomas, although by then, an hourlong line of passengers was backed up at the entrance to Pier C.

Both soldiers, whom authorities would not identify, got their grenades back.

Three weeks ago, Pier C was shut down for about three hours after a souvenir grenade turned up in a Japanese passenger's luggage.

"They surface out in the civilian community all over the place," Thomas said. One of the grenades found yesterday, for instance, was purchased at the ordnance museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground, he said. The other had been bought at a shop at Bolling Air Force Base, near Washington. "But the difficulty faced by law enforcement personnel is that when you first look at it, you can't tell whether it's live or inert. So you have to call in the bomb squad."

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