Residue blamed for Tri-State airport evacuation
By Curtis Johnson
and Rachel Gensler
The Herald-Dispatch

Federal security officials now say it was potentially explosive residues on two containers that forced the evacuation of Tri-State Airport, and canceled flights into and out of the region this afternoon.

US Airways and Delta Airlines both reported cancellations as of 2:30 p.m., but officials were reopening the terminal tonight. It's possible that a flight set for about 9:30 p.m. will leave as scheduled.


Tri-State Airport, which serves the Huntington metro area and is located in Wayne County, was evacuated about 11:30 a.m. today after security officials feared that a liquid substance could be an explosive, said Jim Booten, president of the Tri-State Airport Authority.

Booten said a detection dog then confirmed their concerns.

“It’s an inconvenience, but we are pleased that it was found when it was, rather than on the plane,” Booten said.

Specifically, a Transportation Security Administration official in Washington tells The Herald-Dispatch that a passenger’s water bottle first screened positive for what could be an explosive material at 9:15 a.m. That test was then confirmed at 11:25 a.m. by a TSA explosive detection K-9 team based outside of Huntington. Then airport was evacuated.

US Airways spokeswoman Andrea Rader has confirmed that the passenger in question is a woman who was scheduled to depart Huntington on US Airways 4168 to Charlotte, N.C. at 9:17 a.m.

Rader says flight 4168 departed from Tri-State on schedule without the female passenger or her baggage.

TSA officials tell The Herald-Dispatch that a local explosive ordnance detection team was on its way to Tri-State Airport early this afternoon to handle the situation. The airport will then be re-opened once that team clears the situation.

TSA officials said early this afternoon they did not know how many flights or passengers are being affected by the evacuation, but they estimate that number is less than 50 passengers. TSA officials say at least one flight has been held from taking off, but no specifics have been released regarding that flight.

US Airways is reporting other delays. Rader said flight 4363 was diverted to Charleston, and flight 4236 was canceled and will not leave Charlotte at 2 p.m.
Flight 4236 was scheduled to land in Huntington at 3:19 p.m.

Rader said there has been no decision made regarding flight 4242, which is scheduled to land in Huntington from Charlotte at 9:23 p.m. It is not scheduled to depart again until tomorrow morning.

Delta employees told Tri-State passengers that all of its flights had been canceled for the day.

Specifically, Delta's regional carrier, ComAir flight 5360, was sent back to Cincinnati without any passengers. It departed Tri-State just before 2:30 p.m., with the passengers' baggage left behind.

David Swenny, assistant airport director at Yeager Airport, said this afternoon Charleston airport has not received any diversions as of yet.

Gov. Joe Manchin’s office has been notified of the situation, and those officials are referring all calls to TSA and the state’s Department of Military Affairs.

“It appears that all of our protective measures in place have done their job,” said Joe Thornton, deputy secretary for the Department of Military Affairs.

The Huntington detachment of the West Virginia State Police is now referring all inquiries to the FBI and Airport Authority.

The general aviation building, which sits next to the main terminal, was not evacuated, the receptionist said. It was not immediately clear when Airport Road and the main terminal will be re-opened or what the cause was for the temporary closure.

Travelers have been moved from the parking lot to the general aviation terminal, located beside the main terminal.

“I just want to get home,” said Will Watkins, 26, who waited with a brace on his leg. He fell between two barges Wednesday while working on the Ohio River near Catlettsburg. He tore ligaments in his leg and was trying to catch a flight home to New Orleans to go to a doctor.

Watkins lent his cell phone to travelers Joy and John Cloutre, who were leaving Ulysses, Ky., to move to Brunei and needed to call US Airways about their flight.

“My family didn’t want me to leave because of the terrorism in Brunei,” Joy Cloutre said. “And then we don’t even get out of Huntington without something like this happening.”

Huntington residents Shannon and Wayne Bloss planned on taking their two sons to Orlando, Fla., for Wayne’s brother’s wedding.

“We checked in our bags, sat down and waited for about 10 minutes before the announcement came,” Shannon Bloss said. “We were going to leave in our car and just realized we checked his car seat.”

The family wouldn’t leave without the car seat belonging to 10-month-old Braden. After borrowing a cell phone, Wayne was able to have a neighbor bring Wayne’s truck with car seats so the family could return home.

Shannon said she will be hesitant to travel on planes again.

“It’s not really fear,” she said. “This is such a small airport. I never imagined something like this happening here. It could be worse.” ... 1/60817009

This is the airport my hubby will fly into tomorrow am from the Az border! It's about 15 minutes from our house.