Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
UTA: ‘Suspicious package’ at TRAX station was gas canister
Service disrupted » Ninety-minute light rail shut down delayed hundreds of commuters.
First Published Sep 18 2012 01:29 pm • Last Updated Sep 18 2012 03:21 pm

First, Utah Transit Authority police thought they had found a stash of illegal drugs. Then they saw the "hazardous materials" label on a package recovered from a TRAX station bicycle storage locker.

What followed was a shutdown of the light rail station at 1300 South in Salt Lake City, and delays of up to 90 minutes for hundreds of mid-afternoon commuters on Monday.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter said Tuesday that the package turned out to be a canister of argon gas, and once a Salt Lake County hazmat personnel determined it did not pose a public safety risk, the TRAX closure — first initiated at 2 p.m. — was ended by 3:30 p.m.

Carpenter said the drama began to unfold at 6:30 a.m. when a UTA officer doing a routine sweep of the 1300 South "Ballpark Station" spotted the suspicious package inside the locker. Salt Lake City police responded with a drug-sniffing dog; the canine alerted to the locker, indicating the presence of drugs.

A search warrant was obtained and the dog was deployed once more, but this time did not alert to the locker’s interior. The dog may have earlier sensed drug traces within the more general area outside of the locker itself, Carpenter said.

Police then removed the package, and that is when they noticed the hazardous materials label. Hazmat and Salt Lake County bomb squad experts were called while UTA implemented a lock down of the light rail tracks between 900 South and 2100 South.

By 2:30 p.m., the 900 South station had about 200 people waiting for buses to transport them around the closed down section of tracks. Carpenter acknowledged that wait for many was a long one, though the "bus bridge" was up and operating shortly before TRAX service was restored through the 1300 South station.

"Safety of our passengers is always our top priority," he said. "We did have [the bus bridge] going and moved as many as we could, but it always takes some time to activate those. Our major concern then was to gear up for [a disruption] that could possibly extend into the late-afternoon commute, when we have our heaviest traffic."

Carpenter said UTA was attempting to identify and contact the person who rented the locker to determine why he or she was storing the inert and non-combustible argon gas canister there.

Argon gas has many uses, but mostly is used in arc welding and other high-temperature industrial processes. Argon gas also is used in incandescent and fluorescent lighting.

story continues below
story continues below


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.