Bomb scare cause massive evacuation at St. Maarten Airport PJIA

POSTED: 12/9/14 11:20 AM

St. Maarten – All movements within the confines of the Princess Juliana International Airport came to an abrupt halt Monday after a report of a bomb threat which resulted in almost three hours of work stoppage.

According to an official police report, a call was made shortly after 9,am informing them that an explosive device was on KLM aircraft which was on the tarmac. Taking into consideration the safety of the outgoing, incoming passengers along with the dozens of staff, a decision was made to have the facility evacuated as quickly as possible.

This exercise which was the first of its kind of that magnitude resulted in traffic flowing in either direction to come to an almost standstill for the entire duration while the authorities carried out the investigations into the report.

Ironically, the KLM plane spent the night on the tarmac at the PJIA and while it would have been physically impossible for anyone to gain access while it was there, most would have wanted to dismiss the report as a crank call by an irresponsible individual with a personal agenda.

Because of the shutdown, all flights that were enroute to the PJIA had to be re routed to Puerto Rico and Antigua. However, the sudden notification did cause a degree of confusion and panic among arriving passengers (some) who had just cleared immigration and was waiting to retrieve their baggages from the carousel.

Some managed to get all, and others were not so lucky and had to wait until work resumed to normalcy. A similar situation also took place in the departure lounge at the check in counters and while it was an easy for the able bodied individuals to make a hasty exit, the same could not be said for those who were confined to a wheelchair.

In the absence of a local bomb disposal expert and bomb sniffing dog, technical assistance in that area had to come from the French authorities who arrived fully equipped for the tasks at hand.

In an attempt to render assistance to persons that might be experiencing difficulties under the circumstances because of health related issues, one PJIA official used a loud speaker to address the gathering in sections asking for affected persons to come forward.

Fortunately, at the end of the ordeal and after an extensive search of the aircraft, no explosive device was discovered, but it did bring mixed reactions among some of the passengers who had no other choice than to sit it out in the broiling sun with no place to shelter.

But despite the seriousness of the proceedings, a few did manage to exercise a degree of humor while waiting for the call to report to their respective flight counters.

‘It’s not my first but it’s my longest’

“We drove by about an hour ago and heard that there was a bomb threat and people were asked to evacuate. We came back about two hours after and I am just lying on my back and taking in the sun,” said one man who goes by the name of John that was heading to Charlotte North Carolina and eventually Colombia South Carolina. According to John, this was not his first experience at an airport that had experienced a bomb threat, but it was the longest.

‘Better safe than sorry’

“I had a wonderful time here and they are doing this to make us safe, so I will come back because I feel protected,” said Mary from Long Island. Another elderly visitor who has been coming to the island frequently said that this was the first time she has experienced a bomb scare. “You got to do what you got to do, I am from New York and these things happen in New York, It’s scary stuff that happens all over the world,” she noted.

‘I am glad they evacuated’

The third person to offer a comment was also a female by the name of Nora from New Jersey who was on her second trip to St Maarten and her first bomb scare. But in addition to voicing her opinion, she was also seeking clarity.

“I am glad they evacuated the airport, there is peace and security, but nobody really knows exactly what happened. I want them to tell us if we can stay or just make our way back to our hotel,” she pointed out.

‘It’s unfair to be kept in the dark

Now age 72, Dave, the only male passenger to offer a comment said that he comes here twice a year and he too wanted to know exactly what had transpired and what to do next.

“I don’t know what’s happening, a little update could have done the trick because there are people here that travel internationally and this is a bad experience for me. To be kept in the dark is unfair and unpopular for your island.

It was only after the authorities felt that it was safe for the staff and passengers to re enter the building that they were allowed to do so starting with the staff that worked on the ground floor.

For the hundreds of outgoing passengers, it was a sigh of relief, finally they were back into the shade and preparing to board after an unexpected delay due to security reasons.

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