No propane tank in box that caused airport snag

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There was no propane tank in a suspicious package that created havoc in the midst of the hectic holiday travel season and led to disrupted flights and a brief evacuation of Terminal 2 on Friday.

Jesus de la Torres, the husband of the Minneapolis woman cited for leaving an unattended box at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, told the Star Tribune that the package did not contain a propane tank, as had been widely reported, but rather a metal grill and the hosing that connects to such a tank.

On Christmas Day, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan conceded to the newspaper that “ultimately, the box did not contain a propane tank — only a propane burner and stand.”

Martha Morocho, 35, was cited for abandoning the box after she couldn't get it through security. De la Torres said his wife was was bringing the grill to her mother in New York. When she tried to check the box as luggage, de la Torres continued, airline officials refused “because it wasn’t sealed enough.”

KSTP reported at the time that she left the package outside a Travel Express shop next to the Sun Country check-in.

“All we knew that morning was that we had a … box with a hole cut into the top and a metal pipe and hose sticking out,” Hogan told the Star Tribune on Christmas Day. “There was no way to know whether it was attached to a propane tank until we evacuated the area and had the bomb squad investigate.”

De la Torres told the newspaper that Morocho called him and asked him to come collect the box, but when he showed up at the airport and tried to explain that to officers, he was detained for two hours. Meanwhile, police removed Morocho from the plane and arrested her.

At the time, airport officials said the box contained an empty propane tank, which De la Torres disputed. “They’re lying,” he insisted. “It was just a little grill.”

At the time of the incident, KARE reported that the woman was on board a Southwest Airlines flight when she was removed. The station quoted airport officials on the scene who said they had "... no information that the woman had any bad intentions, only a lack of understanding of airport and TSA rules."

"This time of year, you have a lot of people who are flying who aren't as familiar with the rules as the business fliers would be," Hogan told the station on Friday.

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