Law enforcement agencies used Coconino County's Emergency Notification system for a police incident that closed down the westbound Interstate 40 five miles east of Williams, causing miles of halted traffic on Friday.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Coconino County Sheriff's Office assisted each other on the incident. DPS explained that a passenger in a truck on the interstate reported a bomb was in their vehicle. The allegation was soon proven false and the roads were reopened.
Jon Paxton, spokesman for the sheriff's office, said officials released the alert due to the serious nature of the threat.
"We wanted to give the public as much information and heads up for a road closure as possible," Paxton said.
Troopers first made a traffic stop after 11 a.m. on Friday on the interstate at milepost 161. Bart Graves, spokesman for DPS, said the passenger indicated he might have had a bomb in the truck.
"The subject made a lot of statements that seemed incoherent; however, out of an abundance of caution, troopers felt it necessary to close the highway while technicians checked out the vehicle," Graves said.
The alert was first sent to people in the community through text, call and email at 11:50 a.m. A second alert informed the public that the road had opened less than an hour later. The incident was believed to take in total about 40 minutes, officials report. Graves reported the passenger was arrested for making a false police report.
The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) first reported two incidents on the roadway across a 4-mile stretch of the interstate. The first closure was reported at 11:43 a.m. at milepost 156 at Monte Carlo Road relating to a crash on the interstate. As of 2:30 p.m. on Friday, the crash was still blocking the westbound interstate's right lane.
The alert many people received was sent out about the bomb threat at milepost 161 five miles east of Williams. County alerts referred to both 156 and 161 mileposts in relation to the bomb closure, but after ADOT cleared the 161 milepost incident, the crash at 156 continued blocking the right late.
Coconino County residents can sign up for the emergency notifications at coconino.az.gov/ready.
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