NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The Charleston International Airport has reopened after it was evacuated around midday on Wednesday when airport security located a package which they deemed suspicious.
Officials with the airport and TSA said all passengers and employees were evacuated from the terminal around 11:15 a.m. when TSA agents identified a package that was a potential threat during a routine screening of checked luggage and that an evacuation of the terminal was necessary.
Elliott Summey, Chief Executive Officer for the Charleston County Aviation Authorities, said “the terminal is empty and it’s safe” during a press conference regarding the incident.
Airport passengers said they were told to quickly leave and were directed to the parking garage area.
“I don’t know what it was,” said Cynthia Silvestre who flew into the airport from Atlanta. “We got off the plane and as we were getting ready to exit there they were, screaming ‘evacuate, leave now, start running.’ … I’m thinking oh, my God, people are going crazy.”
Summey said the Charleston County Bomb Squad responded to the airport, along with other law enforcement agencies. He would not provide any information about individuals who may have been connected to the package but noted how safe the airport was and teams were ready to respond.
“We’re always prepared. We’re always prepared and always on go,” said Summey. “This is the safest airport in America. We have all of the procedures always in place to make sure that when these sorts of things happen, then effectively and efficiently we get everyone to safety and that is what was done here today.”
Deputy director and chief communications officer, Spencer Pryor, later told News 2 that the package was removed from the terminal area inspected by the bomb squad.
“At about 1:30 p.m. the all clear was given and the terminal was reopened. The suspicious item was deemed not to be an explosive,” said Pryor.
Passengers were notified via PA announcement, text message, and other forms of communication regarding the evacuation.
All inbound flights into Charleston from Charlotte were either diverted back to Charlotte or grounded in Charlotte. One flight, UA348, which was coming from Newark, was diverted to Savannah.