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Statue Of Liberty, Liberty Island Evacuated Over Bomb Threat

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island were evacuated Friday following a bomb threat.

Sources tell CBS2 this was the second threat made in two days with some kind of computer enhanced or pre-recorded message, CBS2's Dick Brennan reported.

U.S. Parks Police received a 911 at around 11:21 a.m., with a caller stating they were going to blow up the Statue of Liberty, a National Park Service Statue spokesperson said.

As CBS2's Matt Kozar reported, NYPD sources said the threat was made by a computer-generated voice, and was suspected as being made from a telephone typically used by someone who is hearing-impaired.

The pre-recorded message said there was something inside a locker at Liberty Island, and when bomb-sniffing dogs detected a scent from a locker near the gift shop, authorities evacuated the island.

"Security came up to us," a visitor said. "They said we had to evacuate immediately, and they would not give any details."

Park police and the bomb-sniffing dogs swept the island. The dogs got an initial positive hit on a locker at the base of the statue and that is when the evacuation was ordered.

Police said it is possible that the bomb-sniffing dogs might have picked up traces of gunpowder that could have come from a tourist's bag.

A total of 2,715 people had to be evacuated off of the island.

Boats packed with disappointed tourists poured into Battery Park after they were told they had to get off Liberty Island, Brennan reported.

"Security came up to us and said you need to evacuate immediately. They would not give us any details," said one woman who was in the museum.

Many tourists were stuck waiting for the all clear on packed boats in the harbor.

"It was just a disaster. There was no announcement -- nothing," said one man, James O'Conor.

NYPD later deemed the package safe after conducting primary and secondary searches. Park visitors who have personal belonging in lockers at the park will be allowed to return to claim their belongings.

People posted photos and videos to Twitter while they were being evacuated.

John Blount, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, was in the statue's crown, chatting with a park ranger.

"All of a sudden he got a call on his phone,'' Blount said. "He said 'OK', looked up and said, 'It's time to leave.' We had just made it up there.''

He said it was a very calm evacuation down. They got on a boat, and "we were just floating around out there for the past hour and a half.''

His wife's purse was in a locker; they had to leave without reclaiming their property.

Park visitors who have personal belonging in lockers at the park were allowed to return to claim their belongings.

Eric Gustafson, of Worcester, Massachusetts, was on Liberty Island with his wife and son. They were about to enter the building for the tour when park rangers ushered "everyone to the flagpole'' and then told them they had to leave.

"They didn't give us a reason for it. The communication was lacking,'' he said. About 90 minutes later, they were back in Manhattan.

They later saw Twitter accounts about a suspicious package.

"We weren't nervous. It was mostly just frustrating,'' he said, adding that the evacuation was very orderly.

Other tourists said they were taken off boats while trying to leave nearby Ellis Island, then those vessels were used to evacuate Liberty Island.

"Statue Cruises is thankful for the prompt and professional response by National Parks Service regarding today's incident on Liberty Island and greatly appreciates everyone's cooperation, including emergency personnel and of course all the passengers who sailed with us today," said Mike Burke, Vice President and COO of Statue Cruises.  "We safely transported approximately 2,700 people from Liberty Island and all were offered full refunds. We are working with NPS to reunite passengers with their belongings left behind as a result of today's events. Service to Liberty Island will resume Saturday morning at 8:30 am."

People were offered refunds, but to some it was not enough, for a day that many spent standing on a boat waiting for their ship to come back in, Brennan reported.

Liberty Island will reopen Saturday morning.

Visitors who left without retrieving their belongings may call the U.S. Parks Police at (646) 356-2205 and ask for the supervisor.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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