'All clear' given at Oklahoma City airport

/ Source: The Associated Press

The suspicious and noisy package that caused evacuations at an Oklahoma City airport Friday contained a bullhorn that played Christmas music, some wiring and part of a cell phone, officials said.

Will Rogers Airport spokeswoman Karen Carney said the wiring and cellphone parts were what alerted security officials when the taped-up cardboard box arrived on an incoming flight from Houston. It was discovered at a baggage claim carousel around 9:15 a.m.

Airport officials called police after hearing sounds coming from the box and everyone was ordered out of the ticket lobby and baggage-claim levels. That caused 30 flights to be cancelled or delayed and affected nearly 2,500 passengers, she said.

A bomb squad determined the package was harmless, and the FBI said the box's owner missed his flight and was apologetic. No criminal charges were expected.

Officials gave the "all-clear" signal just before 2 p.m., enabling passengers to leave the terminal and flights to resume, Carney said.

Water was brought in for the evacuated airport workers and travelers who had to stand outside in 90-degree heat, Carney said. Many were sent to a parking garage for shade.

"It was hot and there were no bathrooms," said Norma Jean Ashford, a cashier at the CNBC News Store near the ticket lobby. Still, she added, "it's better to be safe than sorry."

The box wasn't picked up because its owner missed the flight, FBI spokesman Clay Simmonds said. Simmonds said the man arrived on a later flight and apologized.

"I think next time he'll probably get to the airport a little earlier," Simmonds said.

An Oklahoma City Police Department bomb squad blasted the box with a high-powered water cannon "to render it safe, and make it safe for investigators to check and see what's in it," Sgt. Gary Knight said.

Authorities halted departing flights at about 9:45 a.m. Police also stopped inbound vehicle traffic north of the airport, Carney said.

One of the passengers packed into the terminal was Jason Jobson, 38, who estimated that thousands of people were inside.

"It was standing room only. It was packed," said the Shawnee, Okla., resident who was returning from a research conference in Washington via Chicago. Jobson said a wall of security guards blocked the exit so people couldn't leave, but everyone was fairly well-behaved.

"Everyone was speculating and making cracks about what was going on," he said. "If it was a bomb, I was more concerned about being injured since we were all sequestered."

After being told it might be a few hours before he could get inside the airport, Alan McKinney headed to a local gas station to buy several six packs of beer. The 54-year-old from Burkburnett, Texas, was among about 20 stranded travelers waiting with their luggage in a parking lot near the airport.

"It's an icebreaker," McKinney said as he offered the beverage to his fellow travelers. "When you have beer, there's no stranger."

Lynn Woodward, who arrived in Oklahoma City from Chicago, said she passed the time by reading her Kindle. Woodward, 56, was traveling with her husband and adult daughter from New York for a relative's wedding in Oklahoma. Her son was stuck in Dallas.

"I'm glad there is security, but I think security has gone overboard," she said. "Since 9/11, it's gotten really hard to travel."

Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy contributed to this report.