Bogus threat closes 61 North, delays bus

Published 11:40 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011

North and southbound traffic on U.S. 61 North was blocked for more than two hours Tuesday after a caller said a bomb was on a commercial passenger bus headed to Vicksburg.

No bomb was found.

Sgt. Sandra Williams said Vicksburg police were notified by Natchez police at about 2:40 p.m. that they had received an anonymous call that a bomb was on the Delta Bus Lines vehicle headed to the Greyhound Bus Station on South Frontage Road.

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A Natchez Police Department spokesman said this morning that officers questioned a woman at the bus line’s Natchez stop about the bomb threat Tuesday afternoon, but later released her. No arrests were made, he said.

Williams said officers stopped the bus about 300 yards north of Solid Rock Pentecostal Church, and police shut down U.S. 61 north of Oak Ridge Road and at its intersection with North Washington Street. The highway remained blocked until about 5 p.m.

At one point, she said, northbound traffic was backed up to Interstate 20 until police began rerouting traffic along Sherman Avenue to North Washington Street.

The bus remained parked on the shoulder of the highway while it was searched by a bomb-sniffing dog from the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol. Its driver and 26 passengers and their luggage were taken off the bus, put on two Vicksburg Warren School District buses and taken to the church, where officers searched the passengers and their luggage.

“I was at the church doing office work and a church member was working in the yard,” Solid Rock Pastor Bill Talbert said. “A woman came up and asked to use the restroom, and then I saw the rest of the passengers. They waited outside until the police arrived.”

Talbert said he opened the church for the passengers and the officers.

He said state troopers, firefighters and people from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency also were at the church.

He said police took the passengers’ cell phones, and the bomb dog searched their luggage.

He said the passengers later boarded the bus at the church to continue the trip.