shuts Maui airport
An evacuation is ordered
after guards lose track of
a bag that failed a screening
KAHULUI >> Federal security officials evacuated Kahului Airport yesterday afternoon after they were unable to find a man whose carry-on baggage tested positive for potential explosives.
The search and evacuation shut down Maui's main airport for about 1 1/2 hours, delaying at least eight flights and frustrating hundreds of passengers.
The incident occurred about 1:13 p.m. and prompted a search until about 2 p.m., after which security officials evacuated the airport terminal of between 400 and 500 passengers, said state Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa.
A screener at a security checkpoint allowed a male passenger to proceed through the gate with his one carry-on baggage, even though the test of his bag for explosives was not finished, Ishikawa said.
By the time the test results came back positive for explosives, the passenger had left the checkpoint. Officials then scrambled to find the passenger and his luggage.
Transportation Security Administration official Lowrey Leong said that after the search turned up no trace of the man, the airport reopened at 3 p.m. and all passengers were asked to re-enter the security screening areas. He said five lanes for screening were opened to speed the examination of passengers and luggage.
"Oh, my God, I never seen anything like this in my life," said Don Delvecchio of New York, as he looked at lines snaking outside the terminal.
Leong said authorities had a general description of the man but were unable to locate him. The man had not been identified passing through security again after rescreening commenced, officials said.
Leong said the situation was being taken seriously, but that a number of common substances, including fertilizer, can register traces of nitrogen. He said officials were reviewing the procedures used in screening the man's baggage.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Honolulu Airport security
plans speed upgrades
Honolulu Airport will automate its explosive detection machines next spring, thanks to more than $16 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Transportation Security Administration employees now must carry baggage to airline conveyor belts after the bags have been screened by the explosive detection machines.
Under the proposed system, the bags that have been cleared would automatically roll onto the airline's belts.
State Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said the automated system will allow TSA to "use the staff elsewhere," making security checkpoints more efficient and lines move faster.
Ishikawa said the automated system will be installed in the lobbies of main terminals five and six and in the interisland terminals.