The evacuation of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport on Monday night due to the discovery of an apparent bomb was proven to be a false alarm early today, with police investigating how an airline’s test kit for explosives got into the baggage claim area.
The airport was reopened at 2:30 a.m. ET.
Massachusetts State Police bomb experts initially reported that they believed the briefcase contained plastic explosives. It proved to be a test kit used by airline employees to test airport security.
“How and why a test kit appeared at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport remains under investigation,” said West Tisbury police chief Beth Toomey in a statement issued at the airport just before 2:30 a.m. today .
Dozens of emergency officials, called to the scene more than eight hours earlier, were visibly upset.
“I know this has impacted a lot of people and a lot of agencies,” Toomey said. “I know it has also impacted a lot of flights.”
The airport was closed to all incoming flights and the public just after 5:30 p.m. on Monday. The closing at the height of the summer season caused chaos among hundreds of travelers. Inbound flights were diverted to mainland locations; departing travelers were left stranded outside the airport.
Among those stranded was former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, who was on the Vineyard for an appearance at a Martha’s Vineyard Hospital fund-raising event at the Farm Neck Golf Club.
Dole, the 1996 Republican presidential nominee, sat in a car outside the airport along with Oak Bluffs police chief Joe Carter and Edgartown selectman Fred B. Morgan Jr.
Robotic Devices Called In
The unclaimed briefcase was discovered by an employee at Cape Air.
Chief Toomey said after the briefcase was discovered, police followed standard procedure for unclaimed packages. The briefcase was first put through an X-ray machine and was determined to have a suspicious content. The briefcase had no markings and no tags.
A state police bomb squad flew to the Vineyard by helicopter from Norwood and “confirmed the contents to be consistent with a potential explosive device,” Toomey said.
Two robotic devices used to detect explosives were transported to the Vineyard on a Steamship Authority ferry. The robot examination revealed the device was an inert test kit.
Meanwhile, police, emergency medical technicians and volunteer fire fighters were called in, including state police, Edgartown, West Tisbury and Oak Bluffs police, the FBI, public health officials and the local chapter of the American Red Cross.
Volunteer firefighters were called in from four of the six Vineyard towns, along with the Tri-town ambulance and a number of other emergency and rescue workers.
Firefighters combed the airport area on foot, searching for secondary explosive devices. Emergency medical technicians went around the airport, writing down everyone’s names.
President Bill Clinton and his family stayed on the island two weeks ago, an example of the glitterati and power brokers who have homes or visit during the August peak season.
According to local media, the Washington Post’s Katharine Graham was entertaining former CIA head Richard Helms over the weekend. Actor Bruce Willis, singer-song writer Carly Simon and television newsman Mike Wallace were vacationing here.