W.Va. terminal evacuated after suspicious liquid found in luggage

Friday, August 18, 2006

CEREDO, W.Va. -- A West Virginia airport terminal was evacuated Thursday after two bottles of liquid found in a woman's carry-on luggage twice tested positive for explosives residue, a Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman said.

"It looks like there were four items containing liquids," said TSA spokeswoman Amy von Walter. "Two of those containers tested positive."

A machine that security checkpoint screeners use to test for explosives registered positive, and a canine team also got a positive hit, von Walter said.

Larry Salyers, manager of Tri-State Airport, said the bottles would be moved by robot to a remote area of the airport where officials would attempt to detonate them. National Guard and state police explosives experts will conduct chemical field tests to determine their contents, he said.

Salyers said he was told the woman was a 28-year-old of Pakistani descent.

who had moved to Huntington from Jackson, Mich. He did not know how long she had lived in Huntington.

The woman was still at the airport late Thursday afternoon but was not under arrest, said FBI spokesman Jeff Killeen.

Commercial airline service was suspended, and about 100 passengers and airport employees were ordered to leave the terminal, said Tri-State Airport Authority President Jim Booton.

Two airlines -- Comair and US Airways Express -- serve the airport. Comair had to cancel at least one flight, but an early evening flight from Cincinnati was expected to arrive on time, a spokeswoman said.

A US Airways spokeswoman said one of its flights was diverted to Charleston's Yeager Airport about 60 miles away.

A screener noticed a bottle in a woman's carry-on bag as she prepared to board the 9:15 a.m. flight to Charlotte, N.C., Booton said.

One bottle contained a gel-type facial cleanser, Killeen said.

The flight was allowed to leave for Charlotte, and the terminal was evacuated at 11:25 a.m., officials said.

The woman had purchased a one-way ticket to Detroit by way of Charlotte on Wednesday, Salyers said.

U.S. authorities banned the carrying of liquids onto flights last week after British officials made arrests in an alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound planes using explosives disguised as drinks and other common products.

Some travelers were more surprised than fearful about the discovery.

"This is such a small airport. I never imagined something like this happening here," said Shannon Bloss, who was traveling to Orlando, Fla., for a wedding.

Joy and John Cloutre of Ulysses, Ky., were waiting to begin the first leg of their trip to the southeast Asian country of Brunei when the evacuation order came.

"My family didn't want me to leave because of the terrorism in Brunei," Joy Cloutre told the Herald Dispatch of Huntington. "And then we don't even get out of Huntington without something like this happening."

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