Friday, December 30, 2016

Greater Rochester International Airport searched, roads closed after threats made

Roads to the Greater Rochester International Airport were shut down and the airport searched after officials say threats were made Thursday afternoon.

County officials say the investigation has been cleared. We're told the airport received "specific threats" combined with two unattended bags being found.

Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn says it all started just after noon. According to O'Flynn, the airport received the threats and -- shortly after -- the unattended bags were found. This prompted an emergency response from the county's hazardous device team.

"Our hazardous device team responded and were able to secure and evaluate the two suspicious articles," the sheriff said Thursday afternoon."[Investigators] determined they were not a threat. It took a little time doing X-ray to determine they were safe."

Investigators used robots to check the unattended "articles," which Sheriff O'Flynn said was baggage.

"The bomb team responded with their equipment, included in that was a portable X-ray, that allowed us to investigate," said the sheriff.

While the investigation was underway, roads to the airport were closed, but passengers were still being loaded and unloaded inside the airport.

Deputies say the investigation into the threats made to the airport are underway.

"It's definitely ridiculous for someone to do that because not only -- they're trying to make a statement but they're inconveniencing a bunch of people," says Rob Knickerbocker, passenger. "And they're wasting a lot of people's time."

Knickerbocker's flight to LAX was delayed by four hours because of the investigation at the airport. It looks like he won't make it to his connecting flight either.

"It's pretty inconvenient because I have a ride back with the only key to my apartment at midnight tonight," says Knickerbocker. "And my ride is probably at work when I get in tomorrow so I might not be able to get home for an extra eight hours after I get to LA."

While this incident may have inconvenienced hundreds of passengers during one of the busiest travel times of the year, they are just glad that everyone is safe.

"It's definitely good that the airport and security takes precaution," says Knickerbocker.

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Officials at the Greater Rochester International Airport Thursday received bomb threats which, after two unattended bags were found, led to a shutdown of the facility for about two hours.

Access roads into and out of the airport were closed, as passengers and airport workers were huddled into the waiting area and not allowed to move through the airport.

The Sheriff's Office and law enforcement agencies used canines to search the airport and robots to check the bags; which were determined to be safe.

Shortly before 4 p.m., activity resumed at the airport and the roads reopened.

During a news conference, Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn said the threats came around the same time officials found the unattended bags, one outside the airport and another inside the airport terminal.

"We were able to determine they were not a threat, it took a little bit of time doing X-ray to make sure they were safe," he said. The packages turned out to be abandoned luggage.

O'Flynn would not give specifics about the nature of the bomb threats, and the overall investigation will continue.

Airport director Michael Giardino said the airport remained open for flights throughout the investigation, and there were minimal flight delays. "Those passengers that were pre-screened and in the sterile area, the secure area, were allowed to board. Some delays were because of what was happening with law enforcement but for the majority of time, planes were coming and going."

Mike Allen, who flew from Tampa to Rochester to visit family, said he and other passengers had left their planes around 2 p.m. and were walking toward the main terminal when told to wait or turn back.

"There was a guy blocking the way toward the main terminal," Allen said in a telephone conversation. "He said, 'Guys, we have a security situation and we need you to stay in this part of the airport.' "

Shortly thereafter, law enforcement officials moved them all into the area where passengers wait to board.

Allen estimated 200 people were there, including passengers and airport employees.

Lisa Zimmerman arrived on a flight from Orlando with her husband and daughter as the incident was beginning. She said passengers on her plane were taken to Concourse A to wait.

She said the room was filled with an "eerie quiet" as passengers waited to hear when they could retrieve their baggage and leave.

"Social media has been keeping people updated, though," she said in a telephone conversation. "It's just a quiet calm here."

During the news conference, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said she was pleased the situation concluded without a serious incident. She thanked airport staff for taking care of passengers and law enforcement for their quick work. "I also want to thank our passengers for their great patience today."

While roads to the airport were blocked off, travelers were directed to wait for the incident to end in two shuttle lots on Buell Road. Dozens of others waited in cars idling along Buell Road and pulled to the side of Brooks Avenue near the airport entrances.

Benjamin and Roselyn Rudney said they were hopeful they could still catch their 5:30 p.m. flight to New York City. They drove to the airport from Mount Morris, Livingston County a couple hours early, expecting a wait at the security screening as they headed out on vacation, but not a wait to get into the airport. But, they maintained a positive outlook.

"It is what it is, and we'll deal with it," said Benjamin Rudney.

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