Bomb scare halts airport traffic, delays travelers
Thousands evacuated from terminals, hundreds held on tarmac
SAN ANTONIO - A bomb threat shut down the San Antonio International Airport for hours Wednesday afternoon, crippling air travel to and from the city.
While that threat turned out to be nothing, it was also a major inconvenience.
It started with a threatening phone call, a man telling airport staff he had placed explosives in and around the airport.
"The caller was very clear that there were explosives," said SAIA Aviation Director Frank Miller.
Both terminals were evacuated, with travelers taken to safety on the tarmac.
Explosives experts swept and cleared both terminals and after a several more threatening calls, police zeroed in on three cars in the basement of the parking garage.
"Bomb dogs checked the vehicles out and they reacted as though there could possibly be explosives in the vehicles," said San Antonio police Chief William McManus.
Meanwhile, airlines grounded their planes and re-routed flights around San Antonio, while police blocked the entrance to the airport.
"We were going to leave on a 3:30 flight, but we weren't even able to get up to the airport because they shut it down," said traveler Justin Gonzalez.
After nearly three hours, police gave the all-clear.
According to airport staff, close to 2,000 travelers were affected by the bomb scare -- and that's just the ones that were in San Antonio. Passengers on dozens of other flights re-routed elsewhere also had to pay the price.
Hundreds of people were stuck on planes -- some up to 3 hours -- as the situation unfolded. Thousands more were forced to evacuate the terminals, some walking over a mile with their luggage.
Passengers were inconvenienced, but many gave the airport and first responders a thumbs up for emergency management.
"Everybody was very professional and moved people calmly to the places ... we were supposed to go," said traveler Scott Shawyer, who said he was headed to Canada. "Everybody seemed pretty cool, actually. I was impressed."
Rick and Sophia Bartra were trying to catch a flight to Atlanta when they heard announcements telling them to evacuate the airport.
"It was actually pleasantly calm," Rick Bartra said. "Nobody freaked out or anything."
Like everyone else, they grabbed their bags and left.
"We just walked like maybe a mile and half already," he said.
It's the second time they said they've been impacted by a bomb threat. A recent hotel stay in Florida was interrupted by a similar scare.
"This was kind of different because there were so many people and I didn't really know what was going on so I was kind of scared," Sophia Bartra said about the SAIA bomb scare.
Out on the tarmac, passengers were stuck on their planes for hours.
Veronica Ortiz said her flight actually arrived early -- just in time for the bomb scare.
"We just stayed calm and they told us to close the windows so that way the heat stays outside," she said.
Other passengers on board the stranded flights reported similar experiences.
"I must say that the passengers on our flight were great," said Cecilia Dimas. "People were cooperative (and) the flight staff was great. They really did try to make us comfortable."
Once the all clear was given, passengers headed back inside where they were greeted with long lines at the ticket counters.
Michael Aurora was less than thrilled with the headache the prankster caused.
"If I saw him, I would probably throw him a New York beating (and) give him a Brooklyn beatdown."
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