NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Two workers were hospitalized after opening a package at John F. Kennedy International Airport Sunday, but the substance inside – initially feared to be nerve gas – turned out only to be beauty supplies.
As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, it was a tense scene at the U.S. Postal Service facility at the eastern edge of the airport Sunday. Port Authority police, the FDNY, and an FBI hazardous response team all rushed to the scene after the workers reported feeling ill.
In this post-9/11 world, authorities respond quickly and forcefully out of an abundance of caution, especially at an installation like JFK.
Meanwhile, as 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten reported, the mail processing center workers who opened the package were taken to Franklin General Hospital in Valley Stream shortly after 3 p.m., according to FDNY Emergency Medical Services. Both were in good condition.
After the workers got sick, the FBI screened and tested them – as well as the package – with what they called “an abundance of caution.” Two Customs and Border Patrol employees were also to be screened.
“In this day and age, you just can’t be too careful,” one officer said.
The mail processing center is on the outskirts of the airport, and passengers were not affected, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.
And there was confusion, but no apparent panic, as operations continued in spite of the powerful law enforcement presence centered in the parking lot outside the postal facility. Early in the afternoon, postal workers were still reporting to work, and city buses were riding back and forth in front of the facility.
“I just heard some spill, and workers went out there and got knocked out, and they call the ambulance and somebody went, and the same thing happened again,” said postal worker Delroy Binger.
Postal workers reported they completed their shifts as usual, in spite of a marked lack of communication.
“We don’t know much of anything. They don’t tell us really what’s going on,” one worker said.
There were initial reports that the package tested positive for VX nerve gas, but officials said soon afterward that it was unlikely that the substance was the chemical weapon.
But on Sunday evening, the FBI confirmed that it had been leaking “beauty supplies and nothing further” all along.
Specifically, the substance that made workers sick was nail polish remover, a law enforcement source told CBS 2.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the airport, didn’t respond to a call seeking comment.
The two sickened workers required only minor medical treatment, a law enforcement source said.
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