Bomb threat aboard bus shuts down N.H. city's heart

Emergency call was "based on someone's observations"

Published May 6, 2010 7:35PM (EDT)

Someone aboard a Maine-to-New York bus carrying 18 people called 911 to report an explosive device on board Thursday, leading police to evacuate buildings and streets, call the passengers out under the watch of a sharpshooter, and question the last person left inside.

The 911 call came after the Greyhound bus arrived in the seaside city of Portsmouth around 11:30 a.m. and was "based on someone's observations," Police Capt. Mike Schwartz said. He had not heard of any threat being made.

The driver "received a report of suspicious activity" while making the routine stop on the trip from Bangor to New York City and followed his training to secure the bus and notify police, Greyhound spokeswoman Maureen Richmond said.

The driver parked the bus and got out, but 16 of the passengers remained on board for more than two hours while police surrounded it and cleared the area of people. Police were in contact with the passengers left on the bus, officials said.

The passengers left the bus separated by a couple of minutes each and carried no purses or bags. Most held their hands aloft as they passed officers with their weapons drawn. Police were interviewing the driver and questioning the only person left aboard.

The passengers were screened individually when they got off the bus -- much like an airport security check -- and were to be taken to the Portsmouth police station. None appeared to be injured as they left the bus; Schwartz said one was taken to a hospital because of a medical condition.

The state police explosives disposal unit and the FBI were on the scene, and restrictions were put on air travel in the area, which kept television helicopters from flying overhead at closer than 3,000 feet.

The bus was parked with its flashers on, between a municipal parking garage and the Hilton Garden Inn. The hotel, garage and other area businesses had been evacuated, and streets have been closed.

A bus from Boston was being sent to Maine so the passengers could continue their trip, Richmond said.


Associated Press reporters David Sharp in Portland, Maine, and Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.



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