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St. Croix Airport Closed in Bomb Scare

Sept. 25, 2004 — At approximately 8 a.m. Saturday morning a chemical bomb scare forced the closure of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix. All passengers, airport staff and surrounding businesses were evacuated. All flights to and from the airport were canceled. Access roads to the airport were closed; police and National Guard personnel were assigned to man the checkpoints. Travelers were instructed to remain at home and contact the airlines' 800 numbers for rescheduling of flights. There is no official word at this time whether flights will resume today.
Sgt. Thomas Hannah, police spokesman, said the operation is under the control of the Port Authority, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI. According to Hannah, an incident command center has been set up at the Randall "Doc" James Racetrack located across the street from the airport. Hannah said he has no knowledge of when the airport may be reopened. "There is a vast area to be checked," Hannah said.
Gwen Griffin was on her way back to Houston after a short stay on St. Croix. "I was on an 8:15 flight to San Juan when all the passengers were asked to evacuate the terminal," Griffin said. "We were taken to the parking lot, and then they asked us to go to the horse track. I knew when they took us further away, it was serious." Griffin owns a public relations firm in Houston.
According to witnesses about 100 people were evacuated from the airport. Around 10:30 a.m. passengers were shuttled to the intersection of East Airport Road and the Melvin Evans Highway where they could arrange transportation home.
"They kept all our checked luggage and asked us to rebook our flights," Griffith said.
The evacuation affected more than airport personnel and passengers.
Gary Thomas, owner of Paradise Waste, stood under a shady tree at the airport intersection. Several of his employees and about five of his commercial dump trucks lined the side of the roadway. "They told us for our own safety, we have to stay away from the area," Thomas said. The dump trucks were filled with debris caused by Tropical Storm Jeanne and were on their way to the Anguilla Landfill.
Richard St. Cyr was on his way to make a check of the wastewater plant located adjacent to the landfill. "I got an alarm about 10 a.m. so I came to check it out," St. Cyr said. "It could be something just tripped, but I don't know."
Secundino Roman Cruz stood on the side of the road, a bright blue backpack slung over his shoulders. "I'm waiting for my wife to pick me up," he said. Cruz, a former police lieutenant and a 30-year VIPD veteran is presently the operations manager for Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino. Cruz was on his way to Puerto Rico to visit his 90-year-old father. He said the authorities were waiting for a special bomb team to come from Puerto Rico.
The Henry E. Rohlsen Airport is located on the southwest side of St. Croix. The airport is serviced by American Airlines, US Airways, LIAT, American Eagle, Cape Air, Air Sunshine and Viequez Air Link. The terminal is 181,000 square feet and the runway was recently extended to 10,000 feet.
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