Hey Man, Leave the Mercury at Home

Passenger shuts down airport with toxic substance in suitcase

By Scott Friedman
|  Tuesday, Aug 25, 2009  |  Updated 3:15 PM CDT
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Hey Man, Leave the Mercury at Home

An American Airlines passenger shuts down three airport terminals by trying to carry toxic mercury through security.

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An American Airlines passenger managed to shut down three airport terminals Tuesday when he tried to carry a container of mercury though the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at  Puerto Rico's main airport.

The incident sent emergency crews scrambling to San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, and forced American and American Eagle to cancel eight flights.

An American Airlines spokesman said the passenger claimed he was transporting the substance to his brother, who is a dentist in Santo Domingo.  Mercury is often used in dental fillings.

The Associated Press identified the passenger as Pedro Rafael de Pena de La Cruz, and said he was being held for questioning but had not been charged.

TSA screeners apparently spotted the 20-pound container of mercury in the man's bag. They noticed it was leaking, and that forced the terminal to shut down over concerns about dangerous fumes.  The AP reported that four people received medical attention for allergic reactions.

The terminals re-opened Monday afternoon, after crews cleaned up the small spill.

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