Plane triggers security alert in Washington

  • World
  • Thursday, 30 Jun 2005

By David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A private plane strayed into restricted airspace over Washington on Wednesday evening, prompting security agents to move President George W. Bush to a safer location and causing the evacuation of the U.S. Capitol, officials said. 

Spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush was in the White House residence and was "temporarily relocated" without incident. The House and Senate, both of which were in session, were also briefly evacuated. 

It was the second time in less than two months that a security scare involving a private plane prompted authorities to evacuate the Capitol complex and take extraordinary security precautions at the White House. Bush was not at the executive mansion during the May 11 incident. 

Wednesday's incident ended within several minutes after the plane, described as a Beechcraft King Air 300, was intercepted by military and homeland security aircraft about eight miles from the capital. 

The twin-engine turboprop was heading to Defiance, Ohio, from Wilmington, Delaware, and was turning away from Washington when confronted, officials said. 

Aviation and homeland security officials said it appeared the wayward aircraft strayed into restricted airspace around 6:30 p.m. EDT to avoid bad weather. The plane was traveling at roughly 200 knots. 

At the White House, the security alert was raised to red but was lowered to yellow within minutes, McClellan said. 

Bush was moved from the residence to an undisclosed location, McClellan said. During the last alert first lady Laura Bush was moved to a secure location within the White House complex. 

Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the plane was directed to land at an airport in Winchester, Virginia, where it would be met by law enforcement authorities. 

At the Capitol, police sent an e-mail message to senators saying they were tracking an unidentified aircraft. "All persons in the U.S. Capitol, Hart, Dirksen and Russell buildings should evacuate now," the alert said. 

The Senate was voting on an amendment to an appropriations measure act and the House of Representatives was in the middle of a vote on transportation funding when the evacuation order was issued. 

The Senate resumed its vote as soon as members were allowed back in the chamber. The House also resumed its work without further incident. 

Tight security precautions have been in effect around the U.S. capital since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon building near Washington. 

However, aviation officials said the restricted flight zone around the capital region is violated frequently, almost always inadvertently by private pilots. 

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