A major breach unfolded at the Morehead City Port, as a fake bomb made its way past security screeners and caused an evacuation at its final destination.
After a two week investigation by NewsChannel 12, Jeff Miles, chief operating officer of the North Carolina State Ports Authority, confirmed the July incident Thursday afternoon.
July 19, a fake bomb fastened with suspicious wiring and PVC pipes was placed in the back of a commercial 18-wheeler truck. Morehead City port police planted the device, part of a random security test.
Security screeners failed to detect the object, and the fake bomb left the port.
The truck was loaded with crates of rubber bound for a Goodyear Tire plant in Danville, Va., 230 miles away.
"We did not notify the Goodyear plant that the fake bomb left the Port" Miles said in an interview Thursday. "We thought [the device] was crushed in the back of the truck when it wasn't found."
The truck arrived at the plant the next day, where bomb squads from the Virginia State Police responded to reports of an explosive device.
The facility was evacuated for more than four hours, and Miles notified authorities that the device was fake.
"This is the first time a fake bomb went undetected in six or seven years of us running these security exercises," Miles said. "This has been a learning experience for us."
Rubber crates were unloaded onto the truck from a container ship arriving from the Far East. The device became hidden behind the crates, weighing two tons each. Miles said the device should have never left the Port gates, but staff assumed it was crushed and would not be noticed.
The Port will no longer plant fake bombs in commercial vehicles to test security screening. Exercises from now on will only use Port trucks, in order to avoid future scares.
According to Mills, the Department of Homeland Security has no role in determining security procedures at North Carolina's port facilities.
Port police notified the truck driver the device would be placed in the back of his empty truck before the cargo was loaded.
Mills was unable to comment on specific security measures crews follow to spot potential threats. "We will be revising training to make sure this never happens again," Mills said.
Security tests with fake bombs are conducted at the Morehead City Port once every quarter.
The ship carrying the rubber cargo previously docked in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia before making port at Morehead City.