Update 3:21 p.m. "Suspicious items" inadvertently left on two buses operated by Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus company following a weekend training exercise triggered service disruptions and a major police response Monday in the Del Rey and Mid-City areas.
Los Angeles police cordoned off the buses in the area of Culver and Venice boulevards, and Pico Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, some time between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., according to Los Angeles police and bus company officials.
The areas were declared safe within a couple of hours, but motorists had to contend with major delays until then.
An LAPD officer from the Wilshire Station said the realistic-looking items were not clearly marked to distinguish them from real devices, and Monday morning's deployment 'was a tremendous strain on our resources."
According to Suja Lowenthal, of the bus company, a passenger on one of the buses saw a "suspicious package" and told the driver, who in turn notified supervisors who contacted drivers of other buses.
The item turned out to be a "decoy" that was used during a weekend competition among bus companies.
The regional "Roadeo" competition involved bus companies from Santa Monica, Torrance, Culver City, Montebello and Gardena, Lowenthal said. Drivers were graded on a number of skills, including thoroughness in performing a "pre-trip inspection" of their bus, she said.
"A decoy was used in a training exercise that took place on the Big Blue Bus company property in Santa Monica this weekend. A total of four decoys were used on four different Big Blue buses. Two of the decoys were removed from
buses before they went into service this morning," Lowenthal said.
"The Big Blue Bus deeply regrets the inconvenience and concern caused by today's incident," she said.
Update 11:51 a.m. A "suspicious item" found on a Santa Monica Big Blue Bus on Monday morning in the Del Rey area was left over from a weekend exercise, and was supposed to have been removed from the vehicle before it was placed back into service, a company spokesperson said.
Los Angeles police cordoned off the bus on a street in the area of Culver Boulevard and Centinela Avenue some time around 9 a.m., the Los Angeles Police Department reported. The area was declared safe a short time later.
According to Suja Lowenthal, of the bus company, the driver was unaware that the item had been left on the bus from the weekend exercise, and noticed this morning and notified authorities.
The bus was one of several used during the weekend as part of a regional "Roadeo" competition involving bus companies from Santa Monica, Torrance, Culver City, Montebello and Gardena, Lowenthal said.
Drivers were graded on a number of skills, including thoroughness in performing a "pre-trip inspection" of their bus, Lowenthal said. Some "suspicious items" were intentionally left on the buses to see if the drivers found them, but all were supposed to have been removed before the buses were placed back in service, Lowenthal said.
Posted 10:21 a.m. A bomb squad responded Monday morning to a report of a suspicious item on a Santa Monica bus near Culver Boulevard and Centinela Avenue in the Del Rey area, according to police and broadcast reports.
The item was apparently a fake device that was left over from a weekend security training exercise involving a number of buses, authorities said.
As of 9:30 a.m., the area was completely reopen to traffic, KTLA 5 reported.