BWI breach of security spurs delays, evacuation

Woman who set off metal detector not found

Anne Arundel

April 04, 2003|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Two piers at Baltimore-Washington International Airport were evacuated yesterday morning after a female passenger failed to stop for a secondary screening after setting off a metal detector, authorities said.

The woman was directed to step aside for a second screening but continued walking and disappeared into the crowd about 10:50 a.m., said Chris Rhatigan, spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration.

After security employees could not find the woman in the area by the gate, all passengers and employees - including those in the restaurants and shops - were cleared from piers B and C, which are connected by a sky bridge.

Bomb-sniffing dogs were used to check the concourses for explosives, as law enforcement officers looked for dangerous objects and the woman, whose photograph was obtained from surveillance tapes.

After about 45 minutes, the piers were deemed safe and passengers were screened and readmitted.

As of yesterday afternoon, the woman had not been found, but security workers were continuing to search for her for questioning.

The incident delayed three flights, Rhatigan said, and affected hundreds of passengers. During the sweep of the area, arriving planes were directed to the airport's other two piers.

"We have procedures in place, we have layers of security," Rhatigan said.

"In this instance, we needed to call in our security level of the last resort: to clear the terminal and bring in our security teams and K-9 units," she said.

Rhatigan said that the woman did not run from the security workers at the metal detector, but TSA officials had not determined how she passed through.

BWI's federal security director and his team will review the incident to determine what happened, and employees will undergo retraining if that is deemed necessary, Rhatigan said.

At the time of the incident, nine planes were at the affected terminals waiting to depart, said BWI spokeswoman Tracy Newman.

But because the incident occurred midmorning during a relatively slow travel month, not as many people were affected as could have been.

"It had the potential to be worse, but fortunately TSA worked very quickly to resolve the issue," Newman said.

On March 25, TSA and Maryland Transportation Authority officials stopped and searched every vehicle coming into the airport for two hours in the evening in response to a specific threat, officials said, before resuming random vehicle checks.

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