Part of Asheville Regional Airport was evacuated after an explosive device was found Friday morning, according to authorities. They are now looking for a person of interest.
A suspicious package was discovered outside on the curb of Terminal Drive, near baggage claim, at about 6:30 a.m on Friday in Fletcher, N.C. Officials say the package was an explosive device.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Asheville Regional Airport Police Department, the Asheville Police Department’s bomb squad, and the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation all responded to the scene.
“Our Department of Public Safety identified this suspicious package and immediately responded and called for a mutual aid response,” Asheville Regional Airport spokeswoman Tina Kinsey said.
The Asheville Police Department’s (APD) Hazardous Device Team was able to render the package safe and remove it, however the main drive into the airport was temporarily closed, and baggage claim and the lobby were evacuated due to its presence. Law enforcement officials said it contained explosive matter.
“It did include explosive materials,” said Shelley Lynch, public affairs specialist with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Charlotte Office. “I’m not at liberty to describe what it looked like, but it was a device that included explosive materials.”
Authorities identified the person of interest as Michael Christopher Estes, 46. Estes, described as a white male with brown hair and brown eyes, is 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs about 200 pounds. He can be identified by multiple tattoos on his arms and wrists.
“We are requesting public assistance to locate a person of interest in this incident,” APD spokeswoman Christina Hallingse said in a departmental press release. “The white male has been seen in multiple locations along Airport Road since Tuesday, Oct. 3. We encourage anyone with information regarding the identity of this person of interest, or if anyone has seen a person matching this description, to please not approach him and immediately call 911.”
Shortly before 9:00 a.m. Friday, a spokeswoman said the airport was under normal operations, and that the terminal and drive had both reopened.
“The airport has not experienced an incident like this in more than a decade,” spokeswoman Kinsey said.
“It’s very shocking for here, just thinking about how safe it is here to travel and how free people are to roam about,” Edith Gwaltney, a passenger who had just returned home from Ireland, reportedly stated, according to WSPA.
Kinsey said she had no further details on the package, other than it may have been a bag of some sort.
“As always we encourage the public to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement,” Hallingse said.
Anyone with information on Michael Christopher Estes’ location is asked to call 911 or Crime Stoppers at 828-255-5050. Police say not to approach him, WLOS reports.
— WSPA 7News (@WSPA7) October 6, 2017
— WLOS (@WLOS_13) October 7, 2017
— WLOS (@WLOS_13) October 6, 2017
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— Todd (@ideapalooza) October 7, 2017
Travelers remain vigilant after suspicious package found at Asheville airport https://t.co/xWbc93QEzL
— FoggyBottomGal (@foggybottomgal) October 7, 2017
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