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Scare Shuts Long Beach Air Terminal

A bomb squad destroys a suspicious carrying case left in a rental car. No explosives are found.

September 12, 2006|From the Associated Press

Authorities at Long Beach Airport detonated a suspicious package found in a rental car Monday, an airport spokeswoman said.

No explosives were found.

The investigation prompted airport officials to close the terminal, although people who had already passed through security were allowed to stay inside, airport spokeswoman Sharon Diggs-Jackson said. Airport employees were not evacuated.

The airport reopened about two hours after the package was found at 8:30 a.m. inside a car at the rental lot across from the terminal. The suspicious item was described as a carrying case, said Sgt. Paul Patterson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The sheriff's bomb squad detonated the case shortly before 10:30 a.m.

"They are very cautious in how they approach these devices and how they handle these situations," Patterson said. "You never know what's in there, and you don't want to risk anybody's safety."

During the investigation, people outside the terminal and waiting to check in at ticket counters were taken to the entrance of the airport. All arriving cars were held at the airport entrance, Diggs-Jackson said.

Arriving flights were not affected, she said, but a few departing airplanes, perhaps eight, were delayed.

When the airport reopened, a line stretched nearly a block outside the terminal as people waited with their bags for screening. A steady stream of cars that had been blocked from the airport dropped off passengers.

Anthony Gasparino, 31, was at the airport for his return flight to New York City. Although he had to wait 90 minutes to turn in his rental car, he was not upset -- given the day.

"Not on Sept. 11," Gasparino said. "I was about to leave and go to the beach for another day."

Philip Lombardo, who was forced to stay inside the terminal for 40 minutes after arriving from New York City, said it appeared that officials may have overreacted a bit. But, he added, if something had happened, "Everyone would say, 'Why didn't you do something?' "

Meanwhile, authorities early Monday searched a large portion of the Port of Los Angeles after receiving an anonymous bomb threat. Authorities later determined it was a hoax.

The Port of Los Angeles, along with the adjacent Port of Long Beach, is the nation's largest port complex and considered a likely terrorist target.

The state attorney general's office has ranked the two ports near the top of a list of more than 600 possible targets in California.

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