Authorities say an explosive device found Sunday in the carry-on bag of a passenger ticketed for an oil-worker flight to the North Slope was indeed the kind used for avalanche control.
The device triggered an hour-long shutdown of the security screening area at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport Sunday afternoon after TSA officers spotted a suspicious item during routine screening.
The man, whose name had still not been released as of Monday, told law enforcement the device was for avalanche control. Because he was taking a Shared Services oil worker transport flight to the flat terrain of Deadhorse, security officials were initially skeptical.
But a statement issued Monday by Shared Services operator ConocoPhillips Alaska said "the item in question was a device typically used for avalanche control, and that there was no ill will intended."
Conoco spokeswoman Amy Burnett said in an email Monday that she couldn't release any personal information about the passenger or if he still faces any criminal charges. She referred any questions to law enforcement agencies.
Someone answering the phones at the FBI's Anchorage office Monday said that agency planned to make a statement about the incident on Tuesday, after the Presidents Day holiday.
Airport officials said they didn't have any information about criminal charges either.
On Sunday, screeners discovered the small explosive device police at first described as a "pipe bomb" at 1:55 p.m. Police detained the passenger and then handed him over to the FBI for questioning.
Officers closed down the screening area and enforced a 300-foot buffer around it. The citywide Explosive Ordnance Disposal team took the device off-site.
Screeners could tell the device lacked a detonator so officials chose not to make an announcement over the public address system, said John Parrott, the airport's manager.
"We were able to tell from the X-ray that the device did not appear to have a detonator," Parrott said. "We felt we had taken prudent actions. Making announcements over the PA system is difficult to do and not just scare people."
He said it was likely the security shutdown caused some passengers to miss flights, though at least the incident didn't occur at the airport's busiest time - the red-eye window between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
Shared Services, a co-venture between Conoco and BP, transports more than 20,000 employees and contract workers between Anchorage, Fairbanks and the North Slope every month, according to Burnett's email.
All Shared Services aircraft received an "in-depth search" as an added precaution after the suspicious item turned up on Sunday, Burnett said.
"ConocoPhillips, operator of Shared Services, is pleased that the security screening system worked exactly as it should and detected the device before it was brought onboard the aircraft," she said.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Reach Zaz Hollander at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4317.
By ZAZ HOLLANDER