February 23, 1997 in Nation/World

Deputies Lose Explosives In Airport Drill Officers Were Training Dog To Sniff Out Bomb Materials

New York Times

Sheriffs’ deputies training a bomb-sniffing dog have misplaced 5 pounds of explosives at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, or the material was stolen, the Milwaukee County sheriff said on Friday, and he made a public appeal for its return.

On orders from the Federal Aviation Administration, the sheriff’s department is not saying precisely what the material was.

It was in a kitchen-style plastic container, with a blue top and a semiopaque white bottom, about 8 inches wide and 12 to 18 inches long, said Sgt. Sherry Weber, a spokeswoman.

Sgt. Weber and a spokesman for the FAA in Washington, Mark Hess, said the material presented no danger because it could be dropped and even set afire without detonating.

The incident is the second of its kind for the sheriff’s department. In April 1990, officers hid a half-pound of a plastic explosive, C-4, in an airline passenger’s bag for a dog to detect, but forgot to remove it afterward and the passenger took the bag home.

The announcement comes just three days after the National Transportation Safety Board took the FAA to task for the way it trains dogs.

The dogs must be drilled frequently with different types of explosives, but the trainers sponsored by the FAA including the one at the Milwaukee airport - sometimes spill explosives or hide them in ways that leave traces of explosive on the planes, the safety board said.

The board said that might have been the source of small amounts of explosive found in the wreckage of TWA Flight 800, which exploded off Long Island, N.Y., in July.

Engineers at the board say they believe that the cause of the TWA accident was probably mechanical failure.

Hess, of the FAA, said Saturday that he did not know precisely how many times trainers had lost explosives at airports or on planes but that it was “extremely rare.”

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