An Anchorage airport police training went awry Monday when a rental car with a small quantity of explosives attached to it went missing because the rental company inadvertently allowed the car to be rented out, authorities said.
It took a few hours for police to track down the car and recover the explosives, which had been placed on the vehicle for a routine K-9 training, said Jesse Davis, chief of Airport Police and Fire at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
The driver of the rental was never in danger, Davis said, but the episode was a lesson in accountability for authorities who were supposed to keep track of the vehicle.
"It was embarrassing for the officer," Davis said.
Airport police routinely work with rental car companies to expose bomb-sniffing dogs to different environments. During the trainings, very small amounts of an explosive are used to challenge the dogs, Davis said.
"When we say 'explosives,' it's not a stick of dynamite," Davis said. "It's a very small piece of explosive."
Authorities talk to the rental company and then pick out the cars to use for the training. The next step is to relay the message of which vehicles are being used to the counter where customers check out. On Monday, that message apparently didn't get through, Davis said.
Another policy requires that the officer keep an eye on the car with the explosives at all times. But then, at some point, the officer turned his back to walk to his own car.
"Then the perfect storm happened," Davis said. "He turns back around and the car is gone."
The explosives were recovered around 3 p.m., Davis said, adding that the driver of the rental car was "very cooperative" and was not alarmed by the incident.
Airport police officials held a meeting with the officers involved Tuesday morning to reinforce the policy of visual contact at all times, Davis said.
He said authorities are investigating other ways to make sure the incident doesn't happen again.
"The big thing, from our standpoint, that really alarmed us was more from the accountability side of it," he said. "These things are very controlled."
Reach Devin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4314.
By DEVIN KELLY