Evacuated Atlanta airport passenger: ‘It was … like a stampede’

Evacuated Atlanta airport passenger: ‘It was … like a stampede’

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Officials evacuated the north and south terminals at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Wed., March 23, 2016, after a suspicious package was found. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

A suspicious package investigation at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport that prompted officials to evacuate the north and south terminals has ended, but the investigation is not over, an airport spokesman said.

“ATL officials continue to work with law enforcement to investigate the incident,” airport spokesman Reese McCranie said.

About 9:41 a.m. Wednesday, an unattended bag in the south terminal “received a positive hit” from a K9 explosives team, he said.

Officials have not described the contents of the bag, only that “the package has been cleared,” Atlanta police Officer D.T. Hannah said.

There were reports of an active shooter at the airport. Video obtained by Channel 2 Action News shows chaos at one point during the evacuation.

“All of a sudden we saw people running,” passenger Michael Jones told Channel 2. “At that point, we saw gate officials running, telling us to: ‘Get out! Get out! Run! Active shooter in the airport! Run! Run!’ It was just like a stampede. Everyone started running.”

Hannah and McCranie said there was never an active shooter at the airport.

Passengers who were evacuated “out of an abundance of caution” were allowed back inside the airport just after 10 a.m. Tuesday, McCranie said.

After the evacuation was lifted, lines at security checkpoints were long.

Delta Air Lines spokesman Morgan Durrant said the suspicious package investigation had no impact on its schedule in terms of cancellations, but “we’ve got six departure delays early this afternoon averaging 30 [minutes] due to security lines.

“We expect that number will not grow.”

Wednesday’s evacuation at Hartsfield-Jackson occurred one day after blasts at an airport and subway system in Brussels, Belgium, killed more than 30 people and injured 270 others.

— Staff writer Kelly Yamanouchi contributed to this article.

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