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Workers find bags at trash bin near Charlotte, N.C., airport 2 weeks in row

By Melissa Manware, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Jan. 4--Maintenance workers at an apartment complex about five miles from Charlotte/Douglas International Airport say they found a trash bin stuffed with luggage two Mondays in a row.

Last week, they say they saw about 40 bags sitting inside and beside a big metal trash bin at Weyland apartments off Wilkinson Boulevard. This week, they didn't find as many bags, but decided to look inside some of them.

"The stuff inside was neatly folded. Some of it had price tags," said Charles Harris. "I thought something fishy must be going on."

One of the bags had a tag with the owner's name and number printed on it.

"I called him up and asked if he'd thrown away a suitcase," Harris said.

The bag's owner, John Huff, told the workers it was stolen from his vehicle while he and his wife slept at a motel near the airport late Christmas Eve or early Christmas Day. He said they ended up traveling to the Bahamas without bathing suits and shorts.

Harris called Charlotte-Mecklenburg police after he spoke to Huff. Spokesman Keith Bridges said officers are investigating the found luggage and had not made any connection to the US Airways luggage fiasco during the Christmas holiday. Police did not know where the luggage found at the trash bin had come from.

Apartment residents and others helped themselves to most of the bags and their contents before police arrived, Harris said.

"It was free shopping," he said. "People were driving by picking stuff up."

Airport police referred calls to US Airways. A spokesman for the airline said he had not heard of any recent reports of irregularities with luggage delivery.

Over the Christmas weekend, US Airways canceled more than 400 flights and mishandled more than 10,000 pieces of luggage, after unexpected numbers of workers called in sick. Although the problem was centered in Philadelphia, the airline's Charlotte hub felt many of the effects, and hundreds of bags surrounded baggage carrousels in Charlotte as late as Thursday.

Huff, who lives in Willow Spring south of Raleigh, said his bag never made it to the airport. He left it locked in the back of his Avalanche when he and his wife stayed at a motel near the airport before their Bahamas trip. When they woke in the morning, it was gone.

He said they had an overnight bag in the room, but had to buy everything else they needed in the Bahamas.

"It was a shock for about five minutes and then we went on," he said. "I figured whoever did it was in worse shape than me."

Staff writer Tony Mecia contributed.

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