Tallahassee Regional Airport was shut down for three hours Monday morning after a security scare at the checkpoint. A TSA screener spotted what appeared to be a suspicious device in a passenger's carry-on bag.
TSA told WCTV the x-ray machine picked up on organic material mixed up with wires, looking like what could be an improvised explosive device. It was enough to raise alarms and evacuate.
Quinten Johnson, Regional Director for the Transportation Security Administration, said, “The contents were so unusual among the hundreds of thousands of bags we've seen go through the airport, we all came to a consensus and decided to err on the side of caution."
By seven in the morning at least 100 people were evacuated. In all, the airport estimates 470 people were impacted by the terminal’s closure.
Six flights were cancelled and seven more delayed. The bomb squad removed the suspected bag and took it to a remote location. Three hours later the suspect items inside that bag were deemed safe. It turns out the suspicious material was tupelo honey and a combination mp3 player/video camera.
The bag's owner, a food editor from New York, cooperated with authorities throughout the entire investigation. He was on his way back to New York after spending the weekend working on a feature story about the food in Apalachicola.
Todd Coleman, the owner of the suspicious bag, said, "I'm from New York. I can understand why these things are put in place and the measures they have to go through. I wasn't ill treated in anyway, so things are in place for a reason."
The airport was back in operation by 10 a.m. Monday morning and the hundreds of people waiting out the morning in the parking lot crammed inside the airport to make new flight plans.
Mary Turback said, "I think they're handling it the best they can."
Donna Sowell said, "We're happy that they checked everything out it's better to be safe than sorry."
Todd Coleman got his bag back, including the honey, electronics and a story about the food in Apalachicola which now has a bit more "spice."
Coleman said, "Don't pack your honey with your electronics devices. This is a tip that is a threat [to] image projection."
TSA Regional Director Quinten Johnson says the agency is looking into why the honey and wires triggered the alarm so a similar situation doesn't happen again at Tallahassee Regional or any other airport across the country.
All of the emergency responders say the cooperation among all the agencies went exactly as they've planned.
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