Jacksonville International Airport reopens; device 'rendered safe'
Updated On: Oct 01 2013 11:43:19 PM EDT
Jacksonville International Airport was given an all clear and reopened about 11 p.m. Tuesday after being evacuated for hours, and authorities said the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office bomb squad removed a device from the airport that needed to be "rendered safe."
The airport was evacuated earlier Tuesday evening because of two suspicious packages found there, according to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority. Witnesses said they saw two men taken into custody.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office bomb squad was called to the airport at 2400 Yankee Clipper Drive about 6:30 p.m. and the airport was closed.
Investigators said one of the packages was found in a terminal and one was found in a parking garage. The bomb squad searched the airport for any additional suspicious packages.
A police spokesman said the device investigators found was taken to an off-site location to be "rendered safe."
Witness Jennifer Lee said she saw a man wearing sunglasses taken into custody at the security checkpoint.
"My colleague and I were coming through security, and all of a sudden they stopped everybody that was in security," Lee said. "We looked a couple of lanes over and they were arresting a gentleman in sunglasses. Originally they told us to stand there. Then they started to yell at us to leave."
Another witness said he also saw another man coming off a flight on the other side of security who was tackled and taken into custody as well. The witness said authorities told the man to drop his bag.
The man was seen in cellphone video being removed from a plane on the tarmac by several airport officers just minutes before.
One witness said she was getting a pat down when one man pushed past her and a Transportation Security Administration agent and said he had a bomb.
"Then he tried to push through the other agent on the other side," Catherine Swan-Clark said. "The TSA agent who was assisting me let me through and she started to pat me down when everything kind of went crazy."
"I heard one of the agents say, 'So you're telling me you have a bomb?' And the guy said, 'Yes, I have a bomb,'" Swan-Clark added.
Authorities did not comment about any arrests. They also said they could not comment on whether what happened may have been an act of terrorism.
There were no departing or arriving flights during the closure, and the terminal was evacuated, said Michael Stewart of JAA.
About 60 police cars and several ambulances responded to the scene.
FBI and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol were also assisting with the investigation.
Some witnesses said their loved ones were stuck in planes on the tarmac.
Some in the airport were put on buses and taken to nearby hotels shortly after the evacuation. At about 8:30 p.m., authorities announced they were starting to offload passengers from airplanes that were stranded at gates at the time, and those travelers were also taken to three nearby hotels.
"It's scary. It makes my heart pound just to even think about the what-ifs," said one woman who sat on the airplane on the runway for two hours.
Once the airport reopened, travelers we allowed to get retrieve their luggage.
Authorities said travelers should stay in contact with their airlines about flights. They said it was up to the airlines whether to continue flights Tuesday night.
"A lot of people, you know, they are a little upset," one shuttle driver said after the evacuation. "Their nights have been up and down. A lot of people have been flying all day and they are trying to figure out how they are going to get home to the kids and the families and things like that. So we are just trying to help, just breathe easy, just get them wherever they can go, get them there safely as soon as we can. Anyone who needs assistance we will help."
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