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Chinese foreign exchange student receives uranium in mail in NY

A letter in the mail. (MaxPixel/Released)
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Police and firefighters shut down a portion of Schaffer Avenue in Lyncourt for several hours Monday night while they investigated a suspicious package believed to contain uranium.

Shortly after 6 p.m. Monday, a woman called 911 to say a Chinese foreign exchange student she is hosting received a package labeled “uranium.” The woman told dispatchers a label on the box said it contained 8.96 grams of uranium 238.

Members of the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office, Lyncourt volunteer firefighters, Syracuse city firefighters and members of the city’s Hazardous Materials team, USPS Police, EAVES ambulance, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the town of Salina fire marshal responded.

While emergency crews were at the scene, a mailman delivered another package. That package also was investigated, but that turned out to be a pair of sneakers, sources said.

Sources confirmed the first package contained uranium, and it was believed to arrived in the mail from Florida.

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One person familiar with the case said someone sent the package to the foreign exchange student in Lyncourt hoping she would mail it to China. But after postal workers asked what was inside the box, she brought it home and opened the box. When they saw the word “uranium” inside the box, someone in the house called 911.

The foreign exchange student who received the package declined to talk at the scene Monday night. Another person with her said they were getting into a vehicle to leave because they could not stay at the house Monday night.

Police and firefighters kept the 200 block of Schaffer Avenue closed for more than five hours while they investigated exactly what was in the package.

“The concern was we just didn’t know what type it was,” Onondaga County sheriff’s Lt. Vincent Ferrara said.

Police later determined it was “not weapon grade,” he said.

“There is no danger to the public,” Ferrara said around 11 p.m. Monday.

“But it is still a concern we had to look into,” he said. ” It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

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The U.S. Postal Service police are continuing to investigate.

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© 2019 Syracuse Media Group, N.Y.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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