St. Maarten – The fifth bomb threat within a year paralyzed traffic to and from the airport yesterday shortly after 12.30 p.m. The emergency dispatch received two phone calls, claiming that two explosive devices had been placed in the immediate vicinity of the airport, most likely at the Pink Iguana.
Reports about the bomb threat reached the media shortly after 2 p.m., saying that security had evacuated the airport and that a police team was searching the terminal for bombs.
Nine minutes later a second report followed, saying that the police had closed off traffic to the airport at the Simpson Bay causeway roundabout and at the Maho roundabout. Police checkpoints barred motorists from driving to the Princess Juliana International Airport.
The search for explosives yielded no results and a bit more than an hour after the first report, the police gave the all clear. Road closures were lifted and business at the airport went back to normal.
This is the fifth bomb threat in less than a year. The first one occurred on December 6, 2014, when police received a phone call shortly after 9 a.m. The caller said there was a bomb aboard a KLM plane that was on the tarmac at the time.
All flights were rerouted to Puerto Rico and Antigua and hundreds of passengers and staff members were evacuated from the terminal building. For lack of a local bomb disposal expert, specialists from the French side assisted with the search.
On January 7, there was a bomb threat at the port, where a female crew member of the Celebrity Reflection cruise ship joked that she was carrying a bomb when she passed through security to get on board. Operations at the port came to a complete standstill for an hour. Police blocked traffic to the port, but a search yielded no results. US authorities dealt with the aftermath of this ill-advised joke.
On July 3, there was again a bomb threat at the airport, 25 minutes before KLM flight 785 from Curacao was scheduled to land. Again the terminal was cleared of travelers and staff and flights were rerouted to other destinations. Departures were canceled.
On August 31, there was a bomb threat at the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine AUC in Cupecoy. This time, the threat came in via email, a method that would lead investigators to the student who made the threat.
Police took measures that are becoming familiar: the vicinity of the university was cordoned off, the premises were cleared of staff and students and a search team inspected all buildings. No bomb was found.
The student who made the threat was arrested a few days later and spent eight days behind bars. He was released on September 17, but the investigation is still ongoing.