Suspicious Item Causes Evacuation at MIA - NBC 6 South Florida

Suspicious Item Causes Evacuation at MIA

Scientist questioned as bomb squad investigates device found at airport



    Suspicious Item Causes Evacuation at MIA
    Miami-Dade Fire Rescue trucks are shown on the arrival level at Miami International Airport in Miami, early Friday morning, Sept. 3, 2010. A spokesman for Miami International Airport says four of its six concourses have been evacuated as a police bomb squad investigates a report of a suspicious item. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

    One man is being questioned and Miami International Airport is back open this morning after a suspicious item caused a major evacuation and shutdown Thursday night.

    The security scare happened just after 9 p.m., when a baggage screener spotted a suspicious item in a checked piece of luggage in the Customs area.

    As many as 200 passengers were evacuated from four of the six concourses and the airport hotel, and incoming flights were diverted to other areas of the airport as Miami-Dade police and a bomb squad team was called in to deal with the item, according to the TSA.

    A video of what is believed to be part of the suspicious item showed a silver canister, though police haven't confirmed what was found.

    Authorities also haven't released the identity of the man who is being questioned, but airport officials said he is a U.S. citizen who had been on a flight from Brazil. A source told NBC Miami the man had been traveling from Saudi Arabia and was heading to Puerto Rico.

     "A suspicious item, actually items, were identified in Concourse E in the Customs area and that necessitated us to, with Miami-Dade Police, working in coordination with them, to evacuate that area, where police performed an investigation," said MIA spokesman Greg Chin. "This was an international arrival, a passenger I believe on a flight from Brazil and the baggage was located in Customs and that's where police performed their investigation."

    FBI Special Agent Michael Leverock said the man was not under arrest and was being "voluntarily interviewed."

    "He's being very cooperative," said Leverock, who refused to say what the item consisted of. "It's at a lab being tested right now. We don't even know if a crime occurred here." 

    A government official later told the AP that the man was a 70-year-old scientist, and that he had a metal canister in his luggage that screeners mistook for a pipe bomb.

    The airport remained evacuated for nearly seven hours, and was finally reopened around 4 a.m.

    It was a mix of fear and confusion for passengers, whose Labor Day weekend got off to a frightening start.

    "Nobody has any idea what's going on out here, so it's pretty wild," said Robert Smith, who is visiting Miami from Texas. "I was looking to make the most of my time in Miami and certainly didn't plan on being stuck here in the airport."