Sources have told CBC that Garda, the private company hired to conduct screening at the airport, specifically told its employees there was no pipebomb incident despite the fact an explosive device had been seized from a teenager several months before. Garda declined an interview request from CBC.
Garda is contracted by the Canadian Transport Security Authority (CATSA). Earlier this month, CATSA distributed a memo to employees saying that an explosive device had been seized and a person charged, but it did not specify at which airport the incident occurred.
“The incident highlights why your role in providing effective security screening is critical,” states the memo.
The RCMP also withheld information about the pipebomb incident.
The teenager, then 18-year-old Skylar Murphy of Spruce Grove, Alberta, was allowed to board the flight to Mexico on Sept. 20, 2013 with his family because the screening personnel did not recognize the pipebomb was an explosive device. It was not reported to the RCMP until Sept. 24th. Murphy was arrested by the RCMP when he returned from Mexico on Sept. 27th.
Murphy was charged with possession of an explosive substance. The RCMP issued a news release announcing the charge against Murphy on Oct. 1, 2013, but the three-sentence release made no reference to the fact that the charge related to the Edmonton International Airport, or that Murphy had carried a fully functioning pipebomb into the security screening area.
CBC News has also now learned that at least three Garda employees handled the pipebomb - a steel pipe with two caps on the end with a nearly three-metre long fuse wrapped around it - but none of them realized it was a pipebomb. A Garda supervisor was on site at the time.
Pipebomb posed danger
Sources have also told CBC the pipebomb posed a danger to anyone in close proximity. Despite this, it was deposited into a “forfeit” bin along with other seized items such as scissors and toothpaste. It was then moved to an office where it sat for four days before a CATSA official saw it and immediately notified the RCMP.
The pipebomb was first discovered in an X-ray machine. Sources say protocol was not followed when it was removed from the machine. Instead, an alarm button should have been immediately pressed, which would have brought an RCMP officer to the scanner.
One source with direct knowledge of the incident said that had the RCMP been notified, as prescribed by protocol, the device would have been left in the machine, the area would have immediately been evacuated, and a bomb squad would have been called in.
“A bomb is always unstable,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.”You don’t know when it is going to blow up. You don’t know what it is going to take to blow it up. It is very dangerous.”
The source also said Skylar Murphy should have been immediately arrested and any of his checked baggage should have been pulled from the flight.
Mathieu Laroque, a CATSA spokesman, told CBC News that security staff breached protocol when they did not push the alarm to notify the RCMP. He said staff should have recognized it was a potentially dangerous device, called in the RCMP and cordoned off the area.
Laroque also reiterated that several staff were disciplined, including suspensions.
Murphy pleaded guilty to possession of an explosive device in December and was given a one-year suspended sentence, $100 fine, and ordered to make a $500 donation to a burn unit.
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