- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 5, 2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Four terminals at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) were shut down for about three hours yesterday after a passenger bypassed security at one terminal and a flashlight battery exploded during screening at another, authorities said.

The two incidents a half-hour apart on the busy Labor Day weekend appeared to be unrelated, said FBI spokeswoman Cathy Viray. Several people suffered minor injuries.

The scare at the international terminal came when flashlight batteries in checked luggage exploded as the bag was being hand-searched by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) worker, said agency spokeswoman Amy Von Walter. She said the blast appeared to have been caused by old batteries, not a bomb.

The passenger whose bag was being screened at the time is a Japanese citizen who planned to take a flight to Tokyo, said Police Chief William Bratton. Police and the FBI questioned the passenger. The flashlight disintegrated when the two C batteries inside exploded, Chief Bratton said.

The TSA worker suffered swollen hands and was taken to a hospital, Miss Von Walter said. Several other people complained of ringing in their ears.

About half an hour earlier, security workers reported that a passenger bypassed security at United Airlines’ Terminal 8 by running up a down escalator, Miss Von Walter said. Authorities ordered the evacuation of terminals 6, 7 and 8, which are connected, in order to re-screen passengers.

About 30 departing United flights were listed as delayed, and 17 of the airline’s inbound flights were listed as canceled or delayed.

Traffic was diverted from the airport and hundreds of people could be seen standing outside the airport.

The shutdown yesterday followed a bomb scare Friday at Ontario International Airport east of LAX that prompted the evacuation of 1,000 people for two hours. The suspicious bag that caused it turned out to contain only cosmetics, officials said.

Authorities are especially wary of terrorism at LAX, among the world’s busiest airports. It has twice been targeted for attacks — a foiled bomb plot planned for around New Year’s Day 2000, and a shooting at a check-in counter that left three dead on July 4, 2002.

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