BWI taking precautions as cargo facilities are searched

After years of scares over bombs in shoes and underwear and concocted by mixing liquids, most travelers at Baltimore's international airport were far from spooked by Friday's reports of bombs originating in Yemen.

Only a few of the passengers interviewed at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in the evening — before reports surfaced about suspicious packages at BWI — professed much concern about the announcement that authorities had found two explosive packages being sent to Chicago aboard cargo jets.

BWI officials said they and the Maryland Transportation Authority Police were taking "all due precaution" after the federal government issued an alert about a possible plot linked to an al-Qaida offshoot based in Yemen. But they said flight operations were continuing normally and that there was no unusual impact on passengers.

The reports were having little effect on the outlook of Massimiliano Puglisi, a native of Sicily who now lives in Baltimore.

"Italians, usually we don't worry very much, but we should probably," he said as he waited to board a flight to Boston. "We need to keep going. We can't stop our daily lives."

Later in the evening, officials reported two incidents at BWI in which authorities were investigating suspicious packages.

In the first instance, which turned out to be a false alarm, a bomb squad responded after a woman attempted to return a package at the DHL air freight building and left it there when workers would not accept it, the Associated Press reported.

In the second, officials later identified a powdery substance that leaked from a package on a delivery van about 7 p.m. as a dietary supplement, according to BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean. He said the substance was found "well away from the terminal building" and did not affect flights.

Before those incidents, BWI officials had issued a statement aimed at reassuring airport patrons.

"We worked closely today with the [Transportation Authority] police and federal security officials, as we do each and every day," said Paul J. Wiedefeld, BWI's executive director. "A thorough assessment of cargo facilities at BWI Marshall was completed today. No specific threats were discovered. We remain vigilant to help ensure the safety of the traveling public."

Most of the travelers interviewed had heard about President Barack Obama's announcement of a "credible terrorist threat."

Allison Petty of Decatur, Ill., said she heard about it from her mother. "My mom was really worried and frantically wanting to know every time I touched down," she said.

"I was more concerned that I missed my first flight, but I'm not terribly worried," said Petty, who had flown in from Bloomington, Ill., by way of Atlanta. "It was a cargo plane, so it's not really a pressing concern."

Chandra Banks of Cambridge, Mass., who hadn't heard of the terrorism alert, seemed unimpressed when told about the devices found in Dubai and England.

"I just don't … view myself as being the victim of terrorism," she said while waiting for a flight home after a visit to Baltimore.

Brenda Kalenga, a resident of Johannesburg, wasn't as nonchalant. Asked whether the news made her a bit nervous, she replied: "A bit? It makes me very nervous."

Kalenga was waiting for a flight to Tampa, but was more concerned about her flight home to South Africa next week.

"That doesn't inspire much confidence, actually," she said. Despite her concerns she wasn't changing her travel plans. "Globalization has placed families all over the place. Obviously, you're required to visit your families."

BWI officials said that they and the police had inspected BWI's cargo facilities and found "no specific or implied threat."

Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
37°