Monday, September 24, 2018
Public safety

False alarm in bag screening evacuates Airside F at Tampa International Airport

TAMPA — Lucy Perkins was eating in the Hard Rock Cafe in Tampa International Airport, waiting for her flight on New Year's Day, when she heard the announcement:

Officials were shutting down Airside F.

Rumors of a bomb threat spread through the airport as several hundred people were hastily evacuated onto the tarmac at 1:07 p.m. after a carry-on bag set off an alarm while going through a screening device.

By 2:10 p.m., the area was cleared, and soon afterward officials announced it was a false alarm — but it left some passengers with an eerie feeling in light of recent terror attacks on holidays, such as in Nice, France, on Bastille Day, Berlin during a Christmas market and in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Eve.

"It's kind of scary to get on an airplane now," said Perkins, 24, as she waited in a crowd outside Airside F for her flight to Washington, D.C.

Passenger safety was never compromised, and the airport is always prepared for such events, whether it's a holiday or not, said John Tiliacos, the airport's vice president of operations and customer service.

"We are always on heightened alert," Tiliacos said. "We are always vigilant."

While passengers like Perkins waited anxiously in the main terminal for any word of the cause, those in Airside F were evacuated onto the tarmac and bused away from the terminal.

The situation also affected arriving flights. The trip from Panama City seemed normal to 13-year-old Juanita Zuluaga of Colombia. The plane landed safely without any indication of a threat. But after she and her mother went through immigration, they were told to go outside.

"I was scared, because I didn't know what was happening," she said. "They didn't tell us anything; we only got the rumors."

At one point, she said she and her mother overheard someone say a bomb threat was called in to the airport.

Another traveler, Debra Schmidt Phillips-Taddeo, said she was sitting in an Airside F restaurant when she saw everyone "get up from the tables and start running."

Outside, Phillips-Taddeo said travelers were given little information but were led to buses to take them away from the tarmac. Passengers then had to go back through security screenings to board their planes.

A flight from the Cayman Islands landed moments after the shutdown. Stuck in his seat for more than an hour, Zealand Shannon, 20, watched from his window as people boarded buses.

"(The pilot) had no clue what was happening, along with everyone else," he said.

Transportation Security Administration agents were able to quickly determine it was a false alarm, Tiliacos said. No flights were canceled.

"The TSA team did an extraordinary job . . . to quickly get our customers rescreened and on their way," he said.

In total, four departing American Airlines planes were delayed and two arriving flights were diverted to other parts of the airport. About a thousand passengers were affected by the afternoon's events, Tiliacos said.

The rest of the airport remained open and operating during the evacuation. Airside F is one of four extending from the main terminal and services international flights through American Airlines, British Airways, Cayman Airways, Copa Airlines, Edelweiss Air and Lufthansa.

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] and Caitlin Johnston at [email protected]

   
Comments
Hillsborough deputy fatally shoots wife, turns gun on himself with children in home

Hillsborough deputy fatally shoots wife, turns gun on himself with children in home

LAND O'LAKES -- A Hillsborough County deputy fatally shot his wife early Monday morning before turning the gun on himself in an apparent murder-suicide, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.In an early-morning news conference, Pasco County ...
Updated: 1 minute ago
Firefighters respond to blaze in Lakewood High School gymnasium

Firefighters respond to blaze in Lakewood High School gymnasium

St. Petersburg firefighters responded to a fire early Monday morning in the gymnasium at Lakewood High School.According to St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, firefighters responded to the school around 5:40 a.m. after a maintenance worker discovered the fir...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Hillsborough asking why rescue captain stayed back as patient’s friends performed CPR

Hillsborough asking why rescue captain stayed back as patient’s friends performed CPR

TAMPA — It was almost 4 a.m. when the man’s friends found him unconscious in a Riverview home and called 911.His breath was shallow and he was turning blue. With the 911 call-taker giving instructions, his friends performed CPR and waited.Ten minutes...
Published: 09/24/18
Police in St. Petersburg searching for missing elderly man

Police in St. Petersburg searching for missing elderly man

Police in St. Petersburg are searching for a missing elderly man.Shortly after 5 p.m., Frederick Mein, 86, drove his silver Toyota Tacoma pickup truck from his home on the 1500 block of 78th Avenue N to his daughter’s house a couple of miles away. He...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Police: Car runs red light, killing woman on motor scooter in St. Petersburg

Police: Car runs red light, killing woman on motor scooter in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURGCar runs red light, killing woman on motor scooterA woman died after a driver ran a red light on 5th Avenue N and hit her motor scooter early Sunday morning, police reported.Vallis Ann Oswain, 58, was driving the scooter northbound on 8...
Published: 09/23/18
Police: Motorcyclist injured in Bayshore crash, southbound traffic diverted

Police: Motorcyclist injured in Bayshore crash, southbound traffic diverted

TAMPA — A motorcyclist suffered serious injuries in a crash on Bayshore Boulevard, police reported.About 3:10 p.m., the motorcyclist was driving southbound, according to the Tampa Police Department. At the same time, a driver in a Jeep Cherokee was h...
Published: 09/23/18
Stolen smokes: Florida man gets 20 years for cigarette theft

Stolen smokes: Florida man gets 20 years for cigarette theft

PENSACOLA, Fla. — A Florida man who stole $600 worth of cigarettes from a convenience store has been sentenced to 20 years in state prison.A jury in Pensacola convicted 48-year-old Robert Spellman of burglary and grand theft in August. Authori...
Published: 09/23/18
Deputies: Driver kills Brandon cyclist, 73, in hit-and-run

Deputies: Driver kills Brandon cyclist, 73, in hit-and-run

BRANDON — A cyclist died in what authorities said is a hit-and-run crash, according to the Hillsborough County Sherrif’s Office.John Dilgard, 73, was riding a mountain bike southbound on Kings Avenue S about 12:42 a.m., the agency reported.A vehicle ...
Published: 09/23/18
Vehicle crashes into Tampa Havoline Xpress Lube, sets building ablaze, fire officials report

Vehicle crashes into Tampa Havoline Xpress Lube, sets building ablaze, fire officials report

TAMPA — A vehicle crashed into a Havoline Xpress Lube early Saturday morning, sparking flames that engulfed the structure, fire officials reported.According to Tampa Fire Rescue, multiple people called 911 about 2:40 a.m, reporting the fire on the 50...
Published: 09/23/18
A Las Vegas professor shot himself on his campus to protest Trump, police say

A Las Vegas professor shot himself on his campus to protest Trump, police say

Before pulling the trigger, the professor was thoughtful.Mark J. Bird had been at the College of Southern Nevada for more than two decades in the department of human behavior. He had a feel for the rhythms of the school day, the timetables of when st...
Published: 09/23/18