Noisy box from Houston causes evacuations at OK airport

June 3, 2011 1:36:26 PM PDT
A suspicious and noisy package that caused evacuations Friday at Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City was eventually deemed harmless, but not before nearly two dozen flights were cancelled or delayed.

Officials gave the "all-clear" signal just before 2 p.m., enabling passengers to leave the terminal and flights to resume, airport spokeswoman Karen Carney said.

The package, a taped-up cardboard box, arrived on an incoming flight from Houston and was discovered at a baggage claim carousel around 9:15 a.m. Airport officials called police after hearing sounds coming from the box.

Everyone was ordered out of the ticket lobby and baggage claim levels, and a bomb squad was called in. Carney said more than 20 flights were delayed or cancelled.

"We moved people on the concourse to the farthest ends, beyond the 300-foot perimeter," Carney said. "We stopped inbound planes for a short time, but planes are now landing."

The box wasn't picked up because its owner missed the flight, FBI spokesman Clay Simmonds said. Simmonds said the man, who arrived on a later flight, was apologetic. No arrests were expected.

"I think next time he'll probably get to the airport a little earlier," Simmonds said.

It was unclear what was in the box, but it included some kind of an electronic device with an external speaker, Simmonds said.

As a precaution, an Oklahoma City Police Department bomb squad blasted the box with a high-powered water cannon "to render it safe, and make it safe for investigators to check and see what's in it," Sgt. Gary Knight said.

Authorities halted departing flights at about 9:45 a.m., and inbound flights weren't allowed to pull up to the gates. Police also stopped inbound vehicle traffic north of the airport, Carney said.

Some of the stranded travelers waited with their luggage in a nearby parking lot after being told they couldn't enter the airport. Loretta Perkins, who was planning to fly to Lexington, Ky., for her granddaughter's graduation, missed her first flight to Houston.

"I'm probably going to miss my granddaughter's graduation," said Perkins, 71, of Blanchard. "This is something that doesn't normally happen in Oklahoma City."

Dennis Lakely, 57, who was heading to Corpus Christi, Texas, had been waiting for about an hour in the airport parking lot.

"I'm going to wait here until we get going," Lakely said.

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