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Bellingham
Friday, May 14, 2021

False positive for explosives stalls Bellingham airport

An abandoned suitcase that prompted an evacuation of Bellingham International Airport after initially testing positive for explosives was found to be empty, the Bellingham Police Department said.

State Patrol found the suitcase near the sidewalk outside the airport on Sunday afternoon and began investigating after it went unclaimed. Transportation Safety Administration representatives conducted an exterior swab of the bag that returned positive for explosive products, said Bellingham Police Department Public Information Officer Bob Vander Yacht.

Bellingham Police deployed a robot to x-ray the suitcase and found it contained no explosives and the swab likely yielded a false positive, Vander Yacht said.

“There are certain chemicals that are similar enough in nature that they cause those swabs to give maybe in this case a false positive,” Vander Yacht said. “There is nothing in the bag that would indicate to us that there is an explosive product in it, or was an explosive product in it.”

The suitcase was deemed safe about two-hours after it was first reported, Vander Yacht said.

Passengers in check-in or pre-screening were led to a remote parking lot to wait while the bag was inspected by Bellingham Police. About 300 people inside the airport past pre-screening were deemed far enough away from the suitcase to remain where they were. No flights arrived or departed while police inspected the suitcase.

“Just to leave something behind like they did was completely irresponsible,” Vander Yacht said.

Vander Yacht urged travelers to keep their luggage in sight in all times, and to abide by the clear regulations provided by airports.

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