Incendiary device was in bag scanned at Victoria airport

Incendiary device and inert surplus military supplies found in bag that passenger brought to airport. Security staff raised alert after bag was scanned.

A suspicious bag scanned at Victoria International Airport has been confirmed to have held an incendiary device plus inert surplus military supplies, the airport said in a statement Tuesday evening.

The bag brought in by a passenger was scanned shortly after 1:30 pm at the departure check-in area by staffers with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.

“They scanned the bag and realized that there were items inside that were could be [of] a dangerous nature and at that point, police were called to the scene to come and investigate further,” RCMP Cpl. Andrew Sanchez said at an evening news conference.

All incoming and outbound flights were suspended until police could determine if it was safe for the public to travel, Sanchez said.

Specialists were brought to the airport from Vancouver to take the item off site and determine what was in the bag.

“The call for service is confirmed to have been an incendiary item and inert surplus military supplies contained in checked baggage,” an airport statement said.

About 20 scheduled flights were canceled between 2:30 pm and 8:30 pm

“As always, the security and safety of our staff and visitors is our priority,” said Geoff Dickson, chief executive of the Victoria Airport Authority.

Parts of the air terminal were closed after police became concerned about the safety of staff and passengers, he said.

The airport resumed regular operations on Tuesday evening.

Sanchez did not describe the item inside the bag other than to say it resembled an incendiary device. The individual who brought the bag to the departure area is under investigation, he said.

“At this point, we are trying to determine if any criminal charges are applicable in this instance,” he said. “Again, because we don’t know specifically what is in that bag, we can’t speak further on that.”

He did not know how many flights were affected but said the airport was full of passengers. Travelers were advised to check with their airline or to go to the airport’s website for updates on flights.

The cancellations had passengers scrambling to find alternative transportation. Helijet, which operates regular flights from Victoria airport to Vancouver Harbor, Nanaimo Harbor and Vancouver International Airport, received a flurry of calls to book flights, said spokesman Rick Hill.

Some airlines were able to rebook travelers on Wednesday flights, but other people were facing longer waits.

Cathy, who didn’t want to give her last name, was trying to head home to Toronto. “We’re stranded, our rebooking is not until Saturday,” she said. “Or else we have to go to the ferry and go to Vancouver.”

She was already checked in when she heard that the flights had been canceled. “Everyone was asked to take their bags and go, so here we are.”

Carolyn and Erwin Beitel were still hoping to make it to Calgary Tuesday night en route to Regina and Emerald Lake.

“We heard different things, that Trudeau was in town and that’s why all the security was there,” Erwin Beitel said. “And then we heard something about luggage some place.”

Carolyn Beitel said she saw a man being arrested.

“I was looking at my flights and I wasn’t paying attention, then all of the sudden I heard this yelling,” she said.

“They had this man turned around and they were trying to put handcuffs on him. The policeman was yelling at him to put his hands back. He put the cuffs on him.”

Travelers remained in the terminal, though some areas were closed off.

Greg Pierce, who lives in Calgary, said he found it “peculiar” he couldn’t walk from where he dropped his bag off to security. The area was cordoned off and he had to walk around outside instead.

“I was sitting there waiting for my flight doing some work on my laptop and I looked out and noticed there was no plane,” he said. “It was about five minutes before we were supposed to leave. They called and said it was canceled.”

Pierce said he got an email saying he’s been book on a Wednesday flight, “which is not terrible. I’m lucky I have a flexible job and could even work from a hotel if I need to.”

“I’m going to miss 12 hours of my life because they were being fairly cautious, which I don’t think is a big deal — but I’m fairly privileged.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

ngrossman@timescolonist.com

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