View Full Version : Explosion on UAL SFO Flight Scares Pax

12th May 2003, 06:44
Small explosion scares S.F. travelers

Container with electronic gear bursts at airport; no one hurt


SAN FRANCISCO, May 11 — A shipping container packed with electronic test equipment exploded inside an airliner’s cargo hold Sunday while passengers were boarding, officials said. A battery pack in the container of electronic gear may have been to blame for the small blast, said Mike McCarron, a spokesman for San Francisco International Airport.

UNITED FLIGHT 33 was preparing for takeoff on a flight to Kauai Island, Hawaii.

“As the baggage handler was moving bags around the cargo hold one of the packed shipping containers exploded, a minor explosion, and blew the hinges off” the container, McCarron said.

There were no injuries, McCarron said, but the baggage handler was “upset.”

He said the container was well padded and insulated and would likely not have caused any damage to the plane had it been airborne.

Passengers were evacuated and rescheduled for an alternate flight.

12th May 2003, 21:12
An update, not terrorism but a hazmat issue apparently.


Terror scare in jetliner at SFO

Container lid blows off in cargo hold

Keay Davidson, Chronicle Staff Writer Monday, May 12, 2003

The whiff of terrorism briefly pervaded San Francisco International Airport on Mother's Day, when passengers boarding a plane bound for Hawaii were startled by a sudden explosive noise that vibrated the jet.

The scare passed quickly, though, when investigators discovered the cause. The lid and hinges had accidentally blown off a container of electronic testing equipment as baggage handlers transferred it into the cargo hold of the Boeing 757 jet at Gate 83.

"It sounded like something had dropped to the ground," like a thump, said passenger Brian Bunger, who with his wife Sherri was boarding United Airlines' 9:30 a.m. Flight 33 for Lihue, on the island of Kauai. "I didn't see anybody panic."

At that point, only a few of the about 180 passengers had boarded the plane.

Authorities escorted them off while airport police and fire crews investigated the scene. Passengers milled around the terminal while waiting; authorities told them to stay away from the windows.

Paramedics went to examine the baggage handler, but he said he was fine and declined treatment, SFO spokesman Michael McCarron said before a small swarm of media and TV cameras by midmorning Sunday.

McCarron characterized the incident as a minor explosion. He said he didn't know the name of the handler.

It was unclear Sunday whether the baggage handler was actually holding the container, or was simply standing nearby, when the lid blew off.

Suzanne Luber, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, said the handler suffered a singed eyebrow but no other injuries.

"Everyone is OK. The aircraft is undamaged," McCarron said.

Officials said the fiberglass container apparently was overpressurized and as a result the lid and hinges blew off. The container was about 2 feet by 3 feet by 1 foot. McCarron said the container was well padded and insulated, and would not likely have damaged the aircraft had the explosion occurred in flight.

The shipment had passed through security X-ray scanners without incident. After the explosion, authorities brought out a mobile X-ray scanner and scanned the container again, and found nothing suspicious. They also interrogated the owner of the shipment and concluded it was legal and harmless.

The aircraft had been scheduled to leave at 9:30 a.m. After the incident, arrival-and-departure screens around the airport announced the flight had been delayed and gave no other details.

Bunger said that after about 20 minutes of investigation, an airport official told the assembled passengers what had happened. He assured them there was nothing to fear. The passengers were moved to another plane, which finally took off around 3 p.m. for Hawaii.

"It's a little unsettling," said Bunger, who is chief counsel for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. He admitted getting a little knot in his stomach when he heard the sound, because of the concern about possible terrorist threats to aircraft.

Still, the airport handled the incident very well, said Bunger, who had been looking forward to the Hawaii vacation with his wife. "It was very calm, very orderly.

"I've been pleasantly surprised with the level of information they gave us, " added Bunger.

Citing security restrictions, airport officials refused to let media go to the gate or airplane to talk to other passengers.