Bomb threat forces two-hour closure of airport
Published: Friday, December 20, 2013 at 1:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 20, 2013 at 7:21 p.m.
Gainesville Regional Airport was evacuated for around two hours Friday afternoon after a bomb threat was called in to a car rental company, forcing passengers in the terminal to be evacuated and those arriving for a flight to be stopped at the entrance on Northeast 39th Avenue.
At 1:58 p.m., the Gainesville Police Department issued an all clear.
Police officers — and a bomb-sniffing dog — scoured the main passenger facility and the general aviation area north of the runways, Officer Ben Tobias said.
“The call came in at 12:18 to (a rental car company). We have a bunch of our patrol officers … and the Alachua County sheriff’s bomb squad on standby should we locate a device,” Tobias said. “We have sent RTS buses in to pick up the people evacuated from the terminal. It was a non-specific threat, so not only do we have to clear the terminal, we have to clear General Aviation as well.”
General Aviation is used by individual pilots and air service companies.
Tobias said patrols were increased across the city in case the bomb threat was a ruse to divert police to a particular location so a crime could be committed elsewhere.
Many of those waiting along 39th Avenue said they were trying to catch a 2 p.m. flight to Atlanta, which had been delayed. They generally had connecting flights in Atlanta.
“It isn’t until 6, so if this gets settled, I can make it,” said Gainesville’s Lucille Lane. “I’ve never been delayed by anything like this — just weather sometimes.”
Airport spokeswoman Laura Aguiar said the terminal and airfield were closed for about two hours. At least three commercial flights were impacted — one was delayed on the ground in Gainesville, while incoming flights from Miami and Charlotte, N.C., were delayed in those cities.
About 100 evacuated passengers as well as airport and tenant employees were led to a field southeast of the commercial terminal.
Evacuated passengers were taken by Gainesville Regional Transit buses to a nearby Santa Fe College facility for their comfort.