Canadian Customs Officials Investigate Claims that Man Flew TNT from Sri Lanka to Ontario

BETHANY, Ont. (CP) - Customs officials are investigating a southeastern Ontario man's claim that three airport security systems failed to detect 170 grams of explosive material he accidentally brought back from Sri Lanka in his luggage.

"We're very concerned," said Paula Shore, a spokeswoman for the Canada Border Service Agency. "It's not something that should ever have been allowed on an aircraft."

Doug Morrison of Bethany, Ont., said he didn't realize the explosive material was in his luggage during the 12-hour Cathay Pacific flight a couple of weeks ago from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Vancouver.

"It was just absolutely a mistake on my part, and here it was sitting in the belly of an airplane," he said. "It is kind of scary when you think about it."

Morrison then drove from Vancouver to Bethany before realizing the TNT had been in his bag.

Morrison, the director of the Canadian Landmine Detection Dogs Society, uses the material for training dogs to detect landmines.

He spent about three months in Sri Lanka setting up a training facility before packing his bags to return to Canada.

The TNT passed through three airports - Colombo, Hong Kong and Vancouver - without being noticed, Morrison said.

The material had been cut into small pieces for training purposes and was carried in plastic bags. The bags were with other training materials in another bag, which was put in a suitcase.

Shore said baggage is checked before it goes on an aircraft by airport personnel and is checked again by the border service before it enters Canada.

X-ray equipment, sniffing dogs and random luggage checks are some of the methods used to inspect baggage, said border service spokeswoman Huguette Shouldice.

Despite the danger of having TNT on a plane, it would have required a detonator to cause an explosion, says a Trent University chemistry professor.

"It is an explosive, but it's safe to handle," said Holger Hintelmann. "It's not sensitive to pressure or to friction."