Penobscot Narrows Bridge shut down after bomb scare

Posted Aug. 24, 2009, at 1:01 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:58 a.m.

PROSPECT, Maine — A bomb threat at the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory shut down traffic on the span connecting Waldo and Hancock counties Sunday afternoon and caused the evacuation of the 420-foot observatory and Fort Knox State Park.

No bomb or other devices were found at the site.

Observatory attendant Ted Cooke said he spotted a torn scrap of paper shortly before 3 p.m. in the stairwell between the first and second levels of the three-level observatory.

“I picked it up, thinking it was trash, and was getting ready to throw it away,” he said. “It was just instinct to read it first.”

The crudely printed note on the 2-inch-square scrap read, “This is no joke. A bomb will go off at 4 p.m. Be warned.”

Cooke, who also serves as a firefighter in the nearby town of Stockton Springs, said he immediately called park manager Mike Wilusz and then the control booth at the park, using the two-way radio all attendants carry.

“[Attendants] are all trained what to do when things like this arise,” he said.

Cooke said surveillance cameras are located throughout the observation tower, including in the elevator. However, the spot where the note was left was in one of the few areas not covered by the cameras, he said.

About 15 visitors were in the tower at the time, Cooke said.

“We asked them to kindly make their way to the elevator,” he said, and the visitors were evacuated without any problems.

Wilusz said there were about 200 people visiting the state park, including many who were exploring its labyrinthine passageways. All were rounded up and out of the park by 3:35, he said.

“I was impressed with how orderly it was,” he said.

Maine State Police, the Waldo County Sheriff’s Department and emergency crews from Prospect and Stockton Springs went to the scene. The Penobscot Narrows Bridge was shut down for about 25 minutes with traffic rerouted north along the river to bridges in Bangor.

Public safety crews searched the observatory tower without finding any suspicious objects.

“We cleared the whole building, top to bottom,” said state Trooper Elisha Fowlie. “We checked everything including the fuse boxes.” A bomb-sniffing dog was not brought to the scene, he said.

The bridge was reopened to traffic at about 4 p.m. The park and the observation tower remained closed for the day. Wilusz said inspectors will double-check the elevators in the tower this morning before reopening the observatory to visitors.

mhaskell@bangordailynews.net

990-8291

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