Jacksonville airport evacuated over packages
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The Jacksonville International Airport was evacuated Tuesday after police found two suspicious packages and incoming planeloads of passengers were stuck on the tarmac while a bomb squad investigated.
Police found one of the packages in the terminal and another in a nearby parking garage, airport spokesman Michael Stewart said. It wasn't immediately clear what was in the packages, but the bomb squad from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was still on the scene and investigating late Tuesday night, Stewart said.
"It was determined that because of the seriousness of the situation that they would evacuate the terminal," Stewart said.
There were no reports of injuries or damage. Jacksonville police blocked off the entrance to the airport. Stewart said he could not say how long the bomb squad's investigation would take or when the airport might reopen.
Local news media reported that the sheriff's office had arrested two suspects, but Stewart said he could not confirm that.
When authorities decided to evacuate the terminal and shut down the airport, some incoming planes were held up on the tarmac until buses could arrive to pick up the passengers, Stewart said. He could not say how many planes were held up or for how long. Airport officials tweeted shortly after the evacuation that passengers on inbound flights would be bused to offsite hotels as transportation became available.
At least one plane was preparing to depart at the time of the evacuation, but Stewart said he did not know if it already had pulled away from the gate at the time of the evacuation. No flights were allowed to take off following the evacuation.
Some relatives and friends who had arrived to pick up passengers were still at the airport late Tuesday waiting for any word. Stewart advised people intending to fly from the airport or pick up travelers to check with their individual airlines on the status of the flights.
Arlie Gentry, a passenger who arrived on a flight from New York via Baltimore, said the Southwest Airlines plane he was on landed just before 6:30 p.m.
"We moved from one spot on the runway to another spot," Gentry said. "They told us we couldn't get off the plane."
The pilots couldn't initially tell the passengers why, claiming they didn't know themselves, Gentry said.
Gentry said the delay was cumbersome and bothersome, but everyone on his plane remained calm. He said he was never really concerned for his safety, because the plane remained so far from the terminal.
Gentry said a bus arrived about 9:30 p.m. to start taking passengers to a nearby hotel. Gentry's sisters had been waiting in the parking lot for several hours and were planning to take him back to Gainesville.