Durham, N.C. — Traffic was moving again on Interstate 40 in the area of Fayetteville Road in Durham after a suspicious object was removed Wednesday evening, authorities said.
Police shut down the interstate in both directions for more than three hours after a passerby called 911 saying a bomb was spotted in the vicinity. A suspicious object – which appeared to be three PVC pipes wrapped in tape – could be seen near the concrete barrier in the westbound lanes on I-40.
"At that point we called the sheriff's department (and) the Highway Patrol to assist us and to investigate to help us determine exactly what we have got," spokeswoman Kammie Michael said.
At about 7:15 p.m., a motorized robot sprayed high-pressure water on the object before removing it from the interstate.
"The device turned out to not be an explosive device. It appears to be some foam that was wrapped up together, possibly something that fell off of a vehicle or something," D.C. Allen of the Durham Police Department said during a news conference.
Allen said the suspicious object was reported by someone with prior military training.
"You can not get that kind of information and not act upon it," he said.
Billy Prickett, of Wilson, said he called the Highway Patrol about the same object Tuesday but didn’t get a response.
"It really did look like maybe an explosive or something like that,” he said.
Prickett travels I-40 a lot for his job and was among the people stuck in rush-hour traffic Wednesday after authorities shut down the interstate at about 4:30 p.m.
"It (the object) didn't seem like much of an issue until today,” Prickett said.
Authorities also closed areas of Fayetteville Road near The Streets at Southpoint.
"It (traffic) is completely stopped and they are making people get off the highway,” motorist Gus Wilson said while waiting in traffic.
Motorist Natalie Mials said she tried to avoid I-40 and take detours but "everything was getting really backed up (and) each way you went, you were stuck."
Allen said from a police standpoint, shutting down the interstate was necessary.
"We have a requirement to be responsible for the safety and lives of people and we are going to do that, we are going to do that to the best of our ability. If that means someone is going to have to miss a flight, at least they are here to catch another flight," Allen said.
Pier 1, Johnny Carinos, Nordstrom Rack and Duke Medical Plaza at the nearby Renaissance Center at Southpoint were also evacuated as a precaution, Michael said.
Chief Deputy Mike Andrews said late Wednesday that a deputy with the emergency response team was shot in the left arm during the investigation. The shooting was caused by a weapon malfunction and the deputy, whose name was not released, is expected to be OK.