The "hazardous" material that closed Kern's principal airport, cancelling flights and delaying hundreds of passengers, has been identified. It was honey, according to Sheriff Donny Youngblood.
A genuinely dangerous material, however, apparently set off alarms at the passenger screening station, the sheriff said.
3:50 p.m. update: The FBI, now involved in the case, said the man at the center of Tuesday's events, Francisco Ramirez, is a legal resident of the United States. Earlier reports from the airport said he was not immediately able to provide documentation of legal status.
Here's what happened, according to Youngblood.
At about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Ramirez, 31, entered the Transportation Security Administration inspection area. He was visiting relatives in Kern County and was headed home to Milwaukee via San Francisco.
A TSA inspector rubbed his bag with a swab that alerts authorities when it comes in contact with even the tiniest traces of explosives or chemicals that can be used to make explosives.
The swab gave a positive indication for TNT or dynamite.
That prompted inspectors to look inside the bag, where they found five Gatorade bottles that contained something that obviously was not Gatorade. Ramirez told the inspectors it was honey.
Inspectors opened the bottles and performed additional tests which created fumes which caused two TSA inspectors to become nauseous. They were taken to a local hospital and treated and released.
That sickness, coupled with the positive indication by the swab, prompted the full emergency response that included evacuation of the airport, cancellation of flights and deploying of the bomb squad.
It took nearly six hours for experts to satisfy themselves it was safe to move the substance the Gatorade containers to the Lerdo Jail compound for in-depth testing by the Los Angeles Police Department mobile bomb lab.
The preliminary results of those tests: The Gatorade bottles were full of honey.
Ramirez told investigators he didn’t know why his bag reacted positively to the swab. He is a gardener by trade, and one inspector speculated fertilizer chemicals might have some of the same components as explosives.