Flight delayed for hours after fake grenade rolls out of bag; was used to test security

Monday, December 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A woman boarded a plane with a security screener's bag that held a fake grenade, which rolled onto the floor and delayed takeoff for hours.

Authorities don't know how Lolita Austria got the bag Sunday and were conducting a petty theft investigation. Austria, 57, of Rochester, N.Y., was questioned and released.

``She made a big mistake one way or the other,'' said Port District spokeswoman Rita Vandergaw. ``Whether it was inadvertent or not, she shouldn't have had that bag.''

Austria picked up a small shopping bag holding a sweatshirt at the end of an X-ray screening baggage ramp at Lindbergh Field, authorities said. The bag also contained a fake grenade used to test security.

The checkpoint security personnel had successfully completed a test using the test grenade on the machine moments before Austria entered the security checkpoint area, a Port District news release said.

After boarding American Airlines Flight 788, Austria pulled the sweatshirt out of the bag and saw the grenade. She ``began to panic and alerted flight personnel that the item was not hers,'' the news release said. The grenade then rolled onto the floor.

The flight, bound for Chicago, sat for more than three hours on the runway while crews came to the scene. All passengers were taken off the aircraft and rescreened before the plane left.