Bomb squad technicians and law enforcement partners rushed to the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (MHT) in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Saturday to investigate an alleged security threat aboard an aircraft.
There was very little initial information, but MHT confirmed on its Twitter page that "an incident had occurred this morning around 11 a.m." at the airport, and the New Hampshire Department of Safety said the state police bomb squad had responded to assist.
MHT said its law enforcement partners had completed a cautionary sweep of the airport.
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Passengers had to exit the secure area and were re-screened through TSA before they could return to their gates. Roads were temporarily closed near Airport Road while authorities were investigating but have since reopened.
There was no word on how much of a delay the response had caused for passengers, but the airport urged travelers to confirm their flight information and thanked everyone for their patience and cooperation as they worked to ensure everyone's safety.
Later Saturday, MHT Director Ted Kitchens held a press conference at the airport, alongside other officials including the mayor of Manchester, in which he confirmed the airport communications center received a call at 10:50 a.m. indicating a threat against Spirit Airlines Flight 2025, which was traveling from Manchester to Tampa, Florida.
Kitchens said passengers were removed from the plane so that it could be searched and cleared by law enforcement. All passengers and baggage were rescreened as a K9 unit swept the aircraft and all baggage, per established protocols.
Spirit Airlines confirmed the security incident required Flight 2025, from MHT to TPA, to be searched and cleared by law enforcement, saying in a statement to NBC10 Boston, "Safety is always our top priority."
"We thank our guests for their patience and understanding, and we thank law enforcement, the airport, and our team members for their assistance in this matter," the airline's statement continued.
Kitchens said the flight in question was cleared, and Spirit confirmed that Flight 2025 had departed for Tampa at 3:11 p.m. Saturday -- almost four hours after its originally scheduled 11:25 a.m. departure.
Photos from the airport showed response vehicles on scene, as well as a police dog near the Spirt aircraft.
The director said all airport roads had since reopened and operations had returned to normal, but he reiterated the call to passengers to please check with their airlines for any interruptions to flights.
"Safety is always our top priority, not only here in Manchester, but throughout the aviation system, so we'd like to extend our thanks to our guests and our passengers for their patience and understanding as we resolve this incident," Kitchens said.
"We also want to extend our deep appreciation to our law enforcement partners, airline partners and mutual aid partners for their assistance in bringing this to a safe conclusion," he added, acknowledging the "very impressive response" from everyone, including state police, the FBI, and the Londonderry Police Department.
Kitchens noted this is an ongoing law enforcement investigation and said officials would not be getting into any specifics relating to their investigation. He also declined to say when law enforcement deemed the threat not credible, adding, "we take all threats like this credible. That's the only way to handle these."
Additionally, the director wouldn't comment on whether or not there had been any arrests, again citing the ongoing investigation, but he did say no injuries were reported.
No flights were diverted during the ordeal but that a few aircraft were held short of gates to keep more people out of the terminals, Kitchens said. Once authorities received the all clear that the terminal was clean, those planes were cleared to taxi to their gates.
Kitchens added that everyone departing the airport was re-screened on Saturday, not just Spirit Airlines passengers.
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Londonderry Police Capt. Patrick Cheetham said the FBI would be involved in the department's investigation.
"We take all of these threats very, very seriously and we prepare and train for these literally on a monthly basis," Cheetham added.
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig said she was extremely appreciative of the "prompt" action taken on Saturday.
"Safety is of the utmost importance here, so the collaboration and action that was taken is much appreciated, and the continuing investigation is really what's important now and where our focus is," the mayor said. "I think it's a great example of how serious we are in terms of making sure that our airport and our passengers are safe at all points in time. We acted immediately and are continuing to investigate this."
The NH Department of Safety encouraged passengers to follow the airport's Twitter account for information on flights, however passengers on social media seemed frustrated by the lack of updates.
"I appreciate the security personnel working on ensuring that MHT is safe. Communication would be appreciated though," Rita Freyre wrote on Twitter. "Been waiting in front of TSa, then forced to leave the airport, then instructed to come back. Now still waiting and nobody has informed us of anything."
"Can anyone update? Currently in Southwest plane on tarmac waiting to taxi in," another Twitter user said.
"The safety of New Hampshire residents and visitors is always the Department’s first priority," the NH Department of Safety wrote in a news release. "Anyone who sees something suspicious should immediately contact local law enforcement or 9-1-1."
State police, Homeland Security and Emergency Management were actively involved in monitoring the ongoing situation Saturday, and MHT said the incident remains under investigation.
Airport operations have resumed, and the investigation remains ongoing.
Investigators from the Londonderry Police Department are leading the investigation with assistance from state and federal partners.