Pubdate: Wed, 13 Oct 2010
Source: Courier-Islander (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Courier-Islander (Campbell River)
Author: Dan MacLennan


A dope grinder/replica hand grenade shut down the Campbell River
Airport for four hours Wednesday morning when it was found in baggage
checked for an outbound flight. Police and city officials are praising
the response to the incident, but the intelligence of owner was also
called into question.

"The item is metal, so it was very visible on the x-ray, to security
personnel," said Campbell River RCMP Cst. Alexa Blacklock. "They took
the steps immediately to ensure the safety of everyone else in the
airport at the time." But she said the incident led to "a tremendous,
unnecessary use of resources, both financially and personnel-wise, the
inconvenience to travellers at the airport missing their flights and
connecting flights, for no reason."

"The person who put the item in their checked baggage hopefully will
think twice about packing such an item again in the future," she said.
The incident began around 6:30 a.m. as outbound passengers were going
through security screening.

Andr? Poirier was in line when he noticed activity up ahead at the
luggage scanner. "There was a bag that was going back and forth, back
and forth and they were all looking at it," he said. "And then they
said Oeverybody out!'"

"Everybody was calm as we exited the building," Chantal Rousseau
picked up the story. "We were waiting outside and then the police
arrived and asked for the name of a man. They took him right away to
the police car." Campbell River's Craig Gagne was hoping to fly out to
Fort McMurray when the order came to evacuate the terminal building.

"We didn't know what reasons at that time but the RCMP pulled somebody
away, put them in cuffs and took them away in their car. We later on
found out that there was something in some baggage." Gagne said he
wasn't unnerved by the event because of the matter-of-fact response.

"It's better to find it here than up in the air," he said of the fake
grenade. "Everything was kept safe and calm. Everybody did a good job.
They did a thorough job. They found it. That's all there is to it."
Regularly scheduled flights were re-routed to Comox, while it took
considerable time and effort to determine the grenade wasn't the real
thing. The RCMP's Explosive Disposal Unit arrived at the airport via
jet from Vancouver at 9:05 a.m.

They spent more than an hour in the terminal building before the Oall
clear' was given. Passengers, airport staff and flight crews were
allowed back into the terminal building just before 10:30 a.m. Cst.
Blacklock said the device certainly looked like a grenade but "the
other use for the item is an organic material grinder, commonly used
for grinding marijuana." "People may use it to grind spices as well,"
she said. "Two adult males were detained at the airport.

They were brought back to Campbell River RCMP detachment where they
were questioned. They have subsequently been released and charges are
not expected. "They won't be receiving the item back." She hoped
something might be learned from the incident.

"This just shows how a lapse in judgment can have tremendous
consequences" she said. "The airport was closed for almost four hours,
inconveniencing over 40 travelers and personnel getting to connecting
flights and destinations. It forced an enormous unnecessary use of
resources, including specialized units, fire, police and security staff.

"That's the message that we'd like to get out to people, just to think
before these items are placed in checked baggage." The passengers were
to face further delays at the airport, but at last word they had flown
out by early afternoon. "I'm really pleased and proud of the
performance from the RCMP, from our airport staff, from the airlines
to the passengers," said Mayor Charlie Cornfield.

"I think everybody took it in stride. The system worked. It worked
effectively and everything's back to normal." Acting city manager
George Paul said an incident analysis could provide some valuable
information. "Everything happened the way it should, but it is an
opportunity to learn.

Maybe there's something that we should be looking at for future
incidents," he said. "Just by coincidence, we were planning a scenario
such as this to be held a little later this year. We'll see what the
results are from the real-life experience. If there's no need to do a
scenario, we're certainly not going to waste our time doing one."  
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