Jax airport returns to normal after bomb hoax

By Kumasi Aaron, Reporter, weekend anchor, kaaron@wjxt.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 09:25:30 AM EST
Updated On: Oct 02 2013 11:57:27 AM EDT

VIDEO: Hundreds of passengers were stranded after a destructive device was found at Jacksonville International Airport leading to an evacuation. Many of them were housed in three hotels overnight. Channel 4's Kumasi Aaron joins us from JIA where those passengers are arriving for their flights.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Looking at Jacksonville International Airport on Wednesday morning, you'd never guess it was evacuated for more nearly six hours after a man approached a Transportation Safety Administration officer and said he had a gun.

At least 20 flights were cancelled and several more were delayed or diverted due to the closure that kept all passengers, airline and airport staff and venders out of the airport until 11 p.m.

David Kaerh was on is way to a meeting in the Washington, D.C. area when what turned out to be a bomb hoax changed those plans.

"At first I thought it was just a prank, but then there were people around me that were somewhat scared, and that kind of created some anxiety," Kaerh said. "But the police and everybody kept everybody calm for the most part."

Jathan Shah was one of hundreds of passengers who couldn't fly out Tuesday night.

"I spoke to my agent on the phone and rebooked in the morning," Shah said. "So I'm going to miss my morning conference. It was starting at 8 o'clock in New York. I won't be there til 1 o'clock."

Any sign of chaos from Tuesday night was replaced Wednesday with quickly moving lines and only a few cancellations and delays.

Sue Pemberton' flight was right on time.

"It's been great. We pulled up checked my bags," Pemberton said. "I'm here getting ready to go through security and get on my flight to go to San Diego to visit my family."

Airport officials encouraged travelers need to stay in contact with their airlines about when flights cancelled or diverted to other airports would arrive. Many morning departures were also be effected because the aircraft never arrived in Jacksonville Tuesday night.

ONLINE:  JIA flight schedule | View your flight's status
IMAGES:  Men detained, airport evacuated |  UNCUT VIDEO: Police remove flight from airplane

One woman was in line at the TSA checkpoint when a man police identified as 39-year-old Zeljko Causevic approached the security checkpoint.

"He tried to push through the other agent on the other side. The TSA agent who was assisting me let me through, then she started to pat me down when everything went kind of crazy," said Catherine Swan-Clark.

Another man was led off of a US Airways flight, another was handcuffed then detained in the garage outside the airport, but was released when authorities determined he had no connection to the bomb hoax. 

Police arrested a second man they said was acting suspiciously outside the terminal when he resisted arrest, but airport officials said he had no connection to Causevic.

Several planes landed just before and after the airport was shut down. People on board those aircraft sat on the plane for up to four hours, waiting to be cleared and shuttled from the tarmac to nearby hotels.

With the inconvenience behind them, travelers say the experience wasn't a bad one, and could have been much worse.

"The process was good," Shah said. "At least we are alive."

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