Language barrier prompts naval hospital bomb scare

Lost deliverymen took wrong turn, detained for two hours

Corner of Florida and Bob Wilson drives
  • Corner of Florida and Bob Wilson drives

A couple of guys attempting to deliver a package triggered a shutdown of the main gate access to Balboa Naval Hospital on Thursday, January 2.

For approximately two hours, San Diego police blocked access to Florida Drive between Pershing Drive and Zoo Place, assisted by several military police organizations and eventually the U.S. Border Patrol.

According to a local U.S. Navy representative, at around 5 p.m., two men in a car approached the Naval Medical Center's Bob Wilson Drive guard post. When questioned by the sentries on duty, a language barrier prompted uncertainty about the men's intentions, specifically regarding a package in their possession. Notice went up through the chain of command, and orders came back to follow precautions used in case of a bomb threat.

The gate was put on lockdown, and bomb-sniffing dogs were called in. Since the area immediately surrounding the gate lies outside Navy jurisdiction, a notice went out to police for assistance. The SDPD complied by setting up a blast perimeter, closing access to Florida and — according to an eyewitness — Pershing Drive north of 26th Street and south of Upas. No residential streets were affected by the closures.

Because the Bob Wilson Drive security gate sits at the bottom of the steep incline below the naval hospital, the medical center itself was considered outside the potential blast radius. Staff was put on alert but all usual services remained open and continued to receive and treat patients. Incoming patients were redirected to the hospital's back gate, which opens onto Park Boulevard and is usually restricted to ambulances.

Meanwhile, at the front gate, the two unidentified men were held while their package was opened and then inspected by canine units. Eventually, the package was cleared and a Border Patrol officer arrived to serve as translator. Initial reports did not specify which language the two men were speaking, but once the translator arrived they proved cooperative.

Apparently, they were in the area attempting to deliver a package and were a little bit lost when they happened to take the wrong turn that led them straight into the guard station.

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