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Security Breach at Airport Forces Thousands of Travelers to Leave Terminals

Aired January 30, 2002 - 12:09   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Want to get back to San Francisco now. A security breach at the airport forces thousands of travelers to leave the terminals. That problem started when a passenger was stopped at a security checkpoint, and traces of explosives were discovered, and then the man vanished.

Rusty Dornin has arrived, joined us now live with an update on what's happening now.

Rusty, what have they told you?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, we're outside terminal three, which is the largest terminal. It is the largest of the domestic terminals here at SFO. And there are still hundreds or probably close to a thousand people outside there, waiting to go back through the security checkpoint. They were evacuated after about ten minutes to 7:00 this morning. A man went through the security checkpoint, and some residue was found on the bottom of his shoes.

Here to tell us a little bit more exactly about what happened is Mike McCarron spokesman for the airport.

Now, Mike, what exactly happened, did they stop him when they discovered this?

MIKE MCCARRON, SAN FRANCISCO INTL. AIRPORT: My understanding is there was a random check. They wiped down his feet with a piece of gauze. It goes through the electronic reader, and the reader came as a positive hit, and when they went to ask him questions, he was gone, and he was lost in the crowd, so as a result, the FAA determined a possible breach of security and shut down that part of the terminal.

DORNIN: So there's no indication that he actually ran away. It may be have been in the confusion.

MCCARRON: Given the confusion, he may not have even known that they were wanting to go ask him more questions. It was just -- right now, I don't have that information. But apparently, he just got up and walked away because he didn't know they were more interested in him.

DORNIN: Now from what I understand, it may come up in the itemizer as some kind of explosive residue, but indeed it may be just about quite a number of materials, right?

MCCARRON: Anything with a nitrate compound, anything with gunpowder or fireworks, even heart medication, such as nitroglycerine will show a positive on this. So that is why they want to ask more questions, and if necessary, put the shoes through X-ray, but apparently, he didn't even know that, and he got up and walked away.

DORNIN: So right now, are they -- what are they doing now? Are they searching the terminal? Or what will happen now?

MCCARRON: Well, the procedure is the breach of security is to close the terminal down, evacuate all the people from that part of the building, and then do a sweep to make sure there are no suspicious packages or anything like that, all the nooks and crannies, trash cans, bathrooms. Once the all-clear is given, all the people on the curb behind us are going to have to go back through security, get rechecked, and get on their planes.

DORNIN: Has this been holding up a lot of the flights out of San Francisco for which - right now, I am hearing planes above us right now, so there are planes that are leaving the airport.

MCCARRON: Right, anything in this building, which is United domestic, is going to be affected, and unfortunately for us, that's our largest carrier. It's about half of our flights, and we have connecting flights to both the United States, and throughout Asia and Europe.

DORNIN: So this is going to be a holdup across the world, really.

MCCARRON: It could effect worldwide traffic right now.

DORNIN: Mike McCarron, thank you very much, joining us at San Francisco Airport. So they are still searching to see if they can find this person who is described as a white male in his 40s, about 5'10". He was carrying two suitcases. But at this point, they really have no idea whether the residue on his shoes was indeed explosive material.

But these people here look like they will be hung up for a while.

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