Explosive Found at Airport Was for Alaska Avalanche Control

Tuesday, 18 Feb 2014 07:19 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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An explosive device found in a carry-on at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport Sunday was supposed to be used for avalanche control, authorities told the Anchorage Daily News on Monday.

Transportation Security Administration officers found the device while checking in oil-worker passengers headed to the North Slope, sparking a two-hour lockdown at the airport's screening area.

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TSA officers were initially suspicious because the flight was traveling to the flat terrain of Deadhorse, but flight operator ConocoPhillips Alaska officials said "the item in question was a device typically used for avalanche control, and that there was no ill will intended."

Shared Services flights are a joint operation between Conoco and BP, transporting roughly 20,000 workers each month, along with contractors between Anchorage, Fairbanks and the North Slope.

The man carrying the device was initially taken into custody and an official told the Anchorage Daily News that they did not know whether he still faces charges.

Conoco spokeswoman Amy Burnett declined to release any personal information about the passenger and directed further questions to law enforcement.

The device originally caused a stir, police said. Airport Police Chief Jesse Davis told the Anchorage Dispatch that screeners did not quite know what to make of the device at first, saying that it appeared to be "similar to a pipe bomb." 

"We got a call for an avalanche device at the screening point" at 1:55 p.m. local time, Davis said. "We determined it was an explosive device."

Authorities said that since they could not find a detonator on the device, they initially declined to make a public announcement.

"We felt we had taken prudent actions. Making announcements over the PA system is difficult to do and not just scare people," John Parrott, airport manager, told the Associated Press. 

Reuters reported that the Ted Stevens airport handles 45 domestic and international carriers and nearly five million passengers annually. The airport is fourth largest globally in terms of cargo. 

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