PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – A nine-hour bomb scare aboard a Maine-to-New York Greyhound bus ended peacefully Thursday night when the lone remaining passenger walked off the bus with his hands over his head. The other 16 passengers and the driver had safely left the bus hours earlier.

“He is in custody,” said Portsmouth police Capt. Mike Schwartz. “No one is injured.”

Portsmouth Police Chief David Ferland said the man was being questioned and the incident was not terrorism-related.

“We do not believe this to be a terrorist event,” Ferland said at a late-night news conference during which he refused to answer questions. “We are considering this to be a localized event only.”

No details about the passenger were immediately released, and the bus remained parked in downtown Portsmouth as it was examined by the FBI and a bomb squad. The man could be a foreign national, as agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were on the scene and there were reports an interpreter was needed to speak to him.

The chief said more information would be released today.

The bus had left Bangor earlier in the morning on its way to New York City. The ordeal began around 11:30 a.m. when the bus arrived in Portsmouth and a passenger called 911 to report an explosive device on board.

The 911 call was “based on someone’s observations,” Schwartz said. He said he was not aware of any threat being made.

Greyhound spokeswoman Maureen Richmond said the bus driver “received a report of suspicious activity” while making the routine stop in Portsmouth and followed his training to secure the bus and notify police.

The driver parked the bus and got out, but the passengers remained on board for more than two hours while police surrounded the vehicle and evacuated people from nearby buildings and streets.

Police then began calling the passengers out of the bus, one every few minutes under the watch of a sharpshooter in an armored vehicle. The departing passengers carried no purses or bags, and most held their hands aloft as they passed officers with their weapons drawn.

Passengers were screened individually and were then taken to the police station to be interviewed. None appeared to be injured, but Schwartz said one was taken to a hospital because of a medical condition.

One passenger, a man, stayed on the bus after the others had left. Police said they established a way to communicate with the man, but they wouldn’t give details of that communication.

The man, wearing camouflage pants without a shirt, finally emerged around 9 p.m., his hands high over his head. He went to his knees before getting up and appearing to follow orders from police to walk away from the bus.

Family members of some passengers who gathered at the Portsmouth police station said their relatives didn’t feel threatened aboard the bus. Several said the passengers were confused and more frightened by the police response.

Outside the police station, friends of passengers waited for police to finish their interviews late Thursday afternoon.

Paul Mowatt of Westbrook waited for his fiancee, Melissa Cunningham, also from Westbrook. He said Cunningham was on her way to visit her mother in Connecticut.

She called him from the bus and said an evacuation was going on in downtown Portsmouth.

“I’ll take her to Connecticut,” he said after she was released, “but she’s not going on a bus.”

Two Bates College students, Abby Samuelson and Ingrid Knowles, waited to pick up fellow student and ski team member Megan McClelland, who was on her way to her home in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Samuelson, 22, and Knowles, 21, said they went to Portsmouth after McClelland began sending them text messages about a bomb scare.

“I dropped her off at the bus station this morning,” Samuelson said. “I feel kind of guilty.”

Another passenger, Danielle Everett of Poland, Maine, was riding the bus to Bridgewater, Mass., where she was going to attend school.

“It really wasn’t any big deal,” said Everett, 20. She said she didn’t see anything suspicious on the bus.

Her father, Daniel Everett of Plymouth, Mass., said his daughter called him on her cell phone from the bus but didn’t seem too frightened because it was unclear to her what was happening.

“So much has changed in the last 10 years. I think now in society, we’re better off over-reacting,” he said of the incident.

Thursday evening, some of the passengers resumed their trip on a replacement bus that departed just before 8 p.m., an hour after the original bus had been scheduled to arrive in New York.

Others skipped the trip and were picked up. Greyhound said it would arrange to reunite passengers with their luggage and any personal items they were forced to leave behind.

 

Staff Writer Ann Kim contributed to this report.