Chesterton Tribune



Rush hour commute fouled by suspicious package at Van Buren

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An unattended cooler left on the Van Buren Street train station--and for a few tense moments believed to be a bomb--fouled the rush-hour commute on Wednesday, the NICTD Transit Police said.

Transit Police Chief Bob Byrd told the Chesterton Tribune today that, around 7 a.m., a South Shore engineer spotted a cooler, a large one-handed model, unattended on the platform outside the Van Buren station.

Such packages are routinely found every day, Byrd said, as commuters and travelers have a funny way of putting down and leaving behind their purses, briefcases, shopping bags, and luggage. The engineer did what he would normally do in such a situation, which is contact the Metra Police. An officer responded, opened the cooler, and saw inside a thermos, a cell phone, and wiring--common components of an improvised explosive device, Byrd said.

At that point the unattended package became a suspicious package, and the Chicago Fire Department was called. The CFD responded and, on seeing the cooler, determined it to be “too close to the real thing,” ordered the area evacuated, and called the Chicago Police Department’s Bomb and Arson Team, Byrd said.

Meanwhile, all trains were stopped on either side of the Van Buren station, while the streets around the station were closed to vehicular traffic, Byrd said. “The whole morning rush hour went to hell. There were no trains coming out of Van Buren. We couldn’t risk allowing people into an environment where there could be an explosion.”

The CPD bomb experts, arriving on scene, x-rayed the thermos and determined that it was just a thermos and contained nothing like shrapnel, Byrd said. The scene was cleared around 8:30 a.m., 90 minutes after the first alert.

Metra Police, examining video surveillance tapes, were subsequently able to identify and locate the man who’d left the cooler. He’d simply forgot it, “walked away from it in his rush to get to work,” Byrd said. “It was not a malicious act whatsoever.” Byrd did credit all responding agencies for their professionalism. “We train on this,” he said. “We have plans in place.”



Posted 10/3/2013