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Chaos at EWR, Alaska Airlines Employee Forces Evacuation

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Panicked travelers abandoned carry-on bags and scrambled for the exits at a Newark Liberty International Airport terminal on Monday night, just as the busy three-day Labor Day weekend was drawing to a close.

An Alaska Airlines employee at Gate 30 in Terminal A grew suspicious of two male passengers as they were about to board a flight, according to Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport.

The airline employee tried to confront the men and then pulled a fire alarm, which led to the evacuation around 8:30 p.m., the authorities said. It was not immediately clear what had prompted the flight attendant to be suspicious of the men, who were later questioned by the police and then allowed to board.

A spokeswoman for Alaska Airlines, Oriana Branon, said the carrier was still gathering information about the episode.

“Alaska Airlines is aware of an incident that occurred today at EWR,” Ms. Branon said in an email.
“We are currently investigating and will provide additional details as we find out more.”

The authorities were also questioning the airline employee who had prompted the evacuation. Police officers with tactical rifles converged on the terminal, with some travelers seeking refuge on the airport tarmac.

The airport returned to normal operations just before 9 p.m., with shaken airline passengers returning to personal items strewn all over the gate area in Terminal A after the latest episode to unnerve people in public settings.

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