A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer prevented an explosive device from being loaded onto a flight at Lehigh Valley International Airport on Monday, Feb. 27.
The device was detected during the routine screening of checked baggage. The suitcase triggered an alarm when it entered the baggage screening unit, which required a TSA officer to physically inspect the contents of the luggage. During the inspection, the TSA officer located an item inside the suitcase that appeared to be suspicious and was believed to possibly be a live explosive device.
The immediate area of the airport was evacuated and the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were notified. FBI and local law enforcement bomb technicians determined that the item was indeed an explosive device.
Investigators have described the device as a “circular compound approximately three inches in diameter, wrapped in a wax-like paper and clear plastic wrap hidden in the lining of the baggage, among other items.” A fuse was connected to the circular compound, which was later found to contain explosive powder. The baggage also contained a can of butane, a lighter, a pipe with white powder residue, a wireless drill with cordless batteries, and two GFCI outlets taped together with black tape.
The man, who was bound for Florida, admitted that he knew he had the device. In a court document filed on March 2, authorities said he fled the airport when he heard his name being paged. According to the affidavit, he called his girlfriend for a ride then switched his phone number to avoid being tracked. He was captured on security cameras leaving the airport and the FBI arrested him at his residence the same day. FBI have named him as Marc Muffley.
“The danger he created … is simply astonishing,” Assistant United States Attorney Sherri A. Stephan said at the March 2 court hearing, when she asked a judge to deny bail. “The fact TSA was able to immediately locate this device and prevent it from being placed on an airplane is to their credit.” The judge ruled that Muffley should remain in custody pending his trial as was deemed to be a flight risk and poses a danger to the community.
“Transportation Security Officers are highly trained and highly skilled professionals at the front line of aviation security who are focused on their mission and catches such as this illustrate the point,” said TSA Federal Security Director Karen Keys-Turner. “This is an example of how the strong partnerships we have established with the airport authority, FBI and local law enforcement came together to ensure the safety and security of the traveling public. I commend our entire TSA team at Lehigh Valley International Airport and the professional manner in which this incident was handled.”