Bomb threat that caused Statue of Liberty evacuation a false alarm

Posted at 1:37 PM, Apr 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-24 16:50:56-04

NEW YORK (CNN) — A bomb threat that led to the evacuation of New York’s iconic Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island on Friday was unfounded, according to a law enforcement official.

The NYPD bomb squad examined a locker thought to contain a suspicious package and found it was empty, the official said.

About 2 p.m. Friday, the locker that reportedly contained the suspicious package had been cleared by police. Other lockers were being checked as a precautionary measure, the law enforcement source said.

Images posted on social media showed crowds of visitors walking on ramps to awaiting ferries.

All civilians were evacuated and only emergency personnel remained on Liberty Island, according to police. The fire department has EMS units on the island as a precaution.

Mike Burke, the head of Statue Cruises, which operates the ferry to the island, said: “Our first priority is the safety and well being of all of our visitors.” Because of the bomb threat, Burke said Statue Cruises would be “postponing all service to Liberty Island until the investigation is complete.”

Shortly after 11 a.m., the National Park Service was informed that a 911 caller made a threat to blow up the Statue of Liberty, which led to the evacuation, according to park service spokeswoman Mindi Rambo.

U.S. Park Police canine units swept the statue and “alerted on an area of interest near the lockers at the base” of the Statue of Liberty, Rambo said.

Park police had notified the NYPD, which dispatched its bomb squad to investigate, officials said.

It is not uncommon to get false positives from the bomb-sniffing dogs, officials said.

Approximately 3.5 million people visit the Statue of Liberty every year. Visitors to the Statue of Liberty must pass through security screening similar to airport security procedures, according to the National Park Service.

Previously, the Statue of Liberty closed in November 2012 because of significant damage sustained from Superstorm Sandy. It reopened on July 4, 2013, with a ribbon cutting ceremony and long lines of tourists.

The last time the island closed to the public was in October 2013, when it shut down for 12 days because of the a government shutdown.

The statue was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland on October 28, 1886. It was a gift to the United States from the people of France to commemorate 100 years of Franco-American friendship as well as the centennial of America’s independence.