Smoke bomb closes Houlton border crossing for 2 hours

Posted Oct. 17, 2011, at 2:45 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 17, 2011, at 6:36 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — The port of entry between Houlton and New Brunswick, Canada, was closed for two hours on Sunday evening after a Canadian man tried to smuggle a smoke bomb through the border crossing.

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the State Department of Public Safety, said late Monday afternoon that the incident began about 3:30 p.m. when 22-year-old Trevor Hickerson of Trenton, Ontario, approached the Houlton port.

McCausland said Hickerson was attempting to return to Ontario through Maine after spending time near the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick.

During an inspection of Hickerson’s vehicle at the Houlton border station, a Customs and Border Protection officer discovered a suspicious device in the trunk, according to Shelbe Benson-Fuller, a public affairs specialist with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Benson-Fuller said Monday afternoon that the device resembled a homemade bomb.

Agents immediately isolated the device and established a safety perimeter around it. North and southbound traffic was rerouted to nearby ports of entry and Hickerson was detained.

Houlton police Lt. Dan Pelletier said Monday that his officers were called to the scene to redirect traffic to ports of entry in nearby Bridgewater to the north or to Orient or Forest City to the south. McCausland said most of the traffic ended up traveling to the Bridgewater crossing, which is roughly 20 miles from Houlton.

Benson-Fuller said staffing levels at the alternate ports were increased to deal with the rerouted traffic.

The U.S. Border Patrol, Houlton Fire Department, Canadian Border Services Agency, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other agencies also went to the Houlton border station.

Further investigation determined that the device was a smoke bomb constructed by Hickerson. McCausland said the bomb resembled an improvised explosive device. Hickerson told police that he made the smoke bomb in case he got lost in the woods.

A state police bomb technician arrived on the scene at 5 p.m. and used a water cannon to render the bomb harmless. The port reopened just before 6 p.m.

Agents also reportedly found a gram of marijuana in Hickerson’s car.

The Canadian was summoned by the State Fire Marshal’s Office at around 9 p.m. Sunday evening for misdemeanor transportation of fireworks and assessed a $500 penalty for marijuana possession. He also was refused entry into the U.S. and returned to Canada.

Marsha Mitchell of Houlton said Monday that she was rerouted to Bridgewater just after 4 p.m. Sunday. She was headed to Woodstock to visit relatives.

“There were just a ton of flashing lights, but the police stopped us before we could get even remotely close to the port,” she said. “I can’t believe someone would do something so ridiculous. It was just inconvenient and cost me more in time and gas money.”

Houlton port of entry officials credited the skills and training of its agents for enabling the border crossing to remain safe at all times.

“Our primary focus was the safety of our employees, the public and securing our border,” port Director Chris Sullivan said Monday. “Due to the rapid response of our officers and our law enforcement partners, we were able to accomplish all three and we were able to resume normal operations as quickly as possible.

“I commend everyone involved for bringing this situation to a timely resolution and personally thank the traveling public for their patience and support during this incident,” he added.

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