Dynamite Found in Luggage

By Kristen Hays
Associated Press
Saturday, August 26, 2006

HOUSTON, Aug. 25 -- A stick of dynamite was found in a college student's checked luggage on a Continental Airlines flight from Argentina, one of seven security incidents Friday that caused U.S. flights to be diverted, evacuated, searched or delayed.

Howard McFarland Fish, 21, was charged with carrying an explosive aboard an aircraft and was in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Federal authorities have determined that his actions were not acts of terrorism, ICE spokeswoman Luisa Deason said in a statement.

Fish told authorities he worked in mining and often handled explosives, Houston Fire Department Assistant Chief Omero Longoria said. Longoria said federal officials were investigating whether the explanation was true.

William D. Waldock, aviation safety professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona, said the incident could have been disastrous and raises questions about security in overseas airports.

Dynamite can be unstable if it's old, he added. "You're in a pressurized airplane, you get a detonation in the cargo hold, it could blow a hole in the airplane big enough to bring it down," he said.

The dynamite was found during a luggage search in a federal inspection station at Bush Intercontinental Airport shortly after Flight 52 landed at about 6 a.m. Marlene McClinton, spokeswoman for the Houston Airport System, said a bomb-sniffing dog "had a hit" on explosive residue during a further search. She said Customs and Border Protection and the FBI shut down the customs area and began questioning the passenger who had the luggage.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston said Fish, of Connecticut, would appear before a federal magistrate Monday. Anyone found guilty of carrying an explosive aboard an aircraft faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Fish is a psychology student at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., said Roger Clow, the college's director of communications. He declined to answer other questions about Fish, citing privacy concerns.

In other incidents:

ยท An American Airlines flight from Manchester, England, to Chicago was forced to land in Bangor, Maine, in response to an unspecified threat, authorities said. Passengers deplaned and were led to a holding area, said airport manager Rebecca Hupp. The jetliner was on the tarmac with its engines off.

Andrea McCauley, a TSA spokeswoman, said FBI agents were interviewing passengers and crew members. She added that officers with dogs trained to detect explosives were also checking the plane.

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