Jacksonville Evacuation Ends, JIA Opens
Kristen M. Foster
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The Jacksonville International Airport is up and operating again after a Tuesday evacuation over two suspicious packages. No injuries or damage were reported. The airport reopened around 11pm (ET); the evacuation started just after 6pm (ET). A crawl on the airport’s website says that it is now open and asks customers to contact the airlines directly for the latest information on flights.
Shannon Hartley, spokesman for Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, reported that, “Our bomb squad did find a device that needed to be rendered safe. They’re in the process of doing that. They removed it from the area.” Federal and local authorities are still conducting their investigations, which Hartley says will, “take a while.” One of the packages was found inside the terminal and another inside one of the parking garages.
The Florida Times-Union reported the incident started with a man who refused a security screening, then told authorities he had a bomb. Authorities detained the man who later asked to speak to the FBI, who is involved in the investigation. The Jacksonville Airport Authority and Hartley have so far declined to comment on passengers seen pulled off of planes or other possible arrests or persons of interest. According to First Coast News, a passenger was detained by police from his flight destined for Washington, D.C., another was seen running from the area and was later detained.
Landing passengers were shuttled to local hotels during the closure. Flights were stopped from takeoff or landing at the Florida airport and parking garages were closed.
One arriving passenger, Arlie Gentry, reported to the Tampa Tribune that passengers on his flight were prevented from disembarking and pilots were unable to explain why, not knowing themselves. Despite the delay, Gentry says that fellow passengers remained calm and says as the plane stayed so far from the terminal, he had no real concerns for his safety.
“I can’t recall since I’ve been at the airport that an entire terminal has been evacuated, and I’ve been here nine years,” said airport spokesman Michael Stewart.[Images via WAWS Official Website.]