By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — TOWN OF NIAGARA — For the second time in less than a year, the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station was shutdown Tuesday after the receipt of what was described as a "suspicious package."
Three other military related facilities in Western New York also received "suspicious" packages or letters, but were apparently not subject to a precautionary shutdown.
The FBI confirmed that members of its Joint Terrorism Task Force were investigating the incidents.
"We received calls from four military related facilities in our area regarding suspicious packages," Agent Maureen Dempsey, an FBI spokesperson, said. "Members of the local JTTF responded and assisted in the investigation."
In addition to the Falls air base, facilities in Buffalo, Olean and near Rochester also received either packages or letters that aroused concern.
In a statement released to news organizations, an unidentified spokesperson for the 914th Airlift Wing said the arrival of what law enforcement sources said was a "letter" triggered the base shutdown.
"Today, at approximately 2 p.m., Niagara Falls air base received a suspicious package prompting base officials to initiate standard emergency protocols to secure personnel and property on the installation," the statement read. "The package in question was received on base via civilian mail carrier and had no return address. No other details concerning the package are available at this time."
Local volunteer fire companies and paramedics also responded to the base as a precaution.
JTTF agents reportedly performed preliminary tests on the letter at the air base and, based on the test results, determined it posed no immediate hazard. The agents took the letter and Dempsey said the terrorism task investigation will continue.
It's not clear if the air base letter or any packages have been opened and examined.
On March 15, the arrival of a “suspicious package” at the air reserve station led to a shutdown of the base. That shutdown lasted almost 10 hours.
Tuesday's incident lasted about three hours
The base remained on lockdown until around 6 p.m., when a team of FBI agents finally cleared the facility to re-open. No one was injured in the incident.
The cause for concern then was a package that had Arabic writing on it. At that time, four people who came in contact with the package were segregated and put through a decontamination process.
At least one of those people was later transported to the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo for a medical evaluation.
FBI investigators found no hazardous materials inside the package. Military sources said the package contained documents written in both English and Arab.