July 27, 1997 in Nation/World

Bomb Scare Snarls Busy Sf Airport No Security Changes Foreseen Despite Disruption At Busy Time


San Francisco airport authorities say they won’t change security procedures in the wake of a bomb scare Saturday that prompted officials to clear one section of a crowded terminal, delay up to 30 flights and close a busy roadway for nearly two hours.

Officials said the incident showed airport workers followed security procedures perfectly, but there is no practical way to prevent something like that from happening again.

“We’re a public building,” said airport duty manager Tryg McCoy. “You can’t make this a prison to get in.”

Authorities want to talk with a 30ish man in jeans and a T-shirt who was seen walking away from the device - a section of pipe connected by wires to a circuit board - near the United Airlines ticket counter at the front of the airport’s North Terminal.

The counter is outside the security checkpoints that passengers must pass to get to the loading gates.

While the device proved harmless, authorities evacuated nearly 800 people from one section of the terminal while the bomb squad investigated and eventually removed it. No flights were canceled, but United Airlines delayed about 25 to 30 flights, for up to 30 minutes, in part to accommodate passengers who were late getting to their gates.

“It had a major effect on a very busy Saturday morning,” McCoy said. “Clearly the person intended it to look like a bomb. What their motive was, I don’t know.”

From 8:30 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. - as hundreds of domestic and international passengers were trying to make their flights - authorities closed the upper roadway that is normally used to drop off departing passengers. All traffic was diverted to the lower roadway, normally reserved for motorists coming to greet arrivals.

“It was very crazy, for everybody,” said Manuel Castro, a taxi dispatcher outside the terminal, describing the traffic backup on the roadway leading to the airport.

Cars were backed up to the exits off Highway 101 and some motorists reported sitting in traffic for up to half an hour.

“Saturday morning is a very busy time. It’s one of the peak times for the airport,” said McCoy. Security officials said they had no choice, once a bomb-sniffing German Shepherd named Lauser reacted to a chemical residue on the carpeting where the device was discovered. Airport police Sgt. Joe Reilly said that prompted authorities to give the incident “a complete response.”

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