Flight To Chicago Diverted Over Bomb Threat Hoax
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UPDATED 03/12/12 – 3:27 p.m.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (CBS) — A flight from Boston to Chicago was diverted to Buffalo, N.Y., Monday morning, after authorities received a bomb threat that turned out to be a hoax tied to a domestic dispute.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, Jet Blue confirmed Monday morning that Flight 923, which left Boston-Logan at 5:32 a.m. Chicago time for O’Hare International Airport, was diverted to Buffalo Niagara International Airport due to a “security issue.”
The plane landed safely in Buffalo at 7:25 a.m. Chicago time, and was met by local and federal authorities, Jet Blue said. Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Police Chief George Gast said the aircraft was taken to an isolated area of the airport. The 83 passengers and four crew members were taken off the plane and transported to the terminal, Gast said.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports
Police and a canine explosive detection unit swept the plane and baggage for explosives. The passengers were also checked, but no explosives were found.
“We’re very confident that there was no explosive device on the aircraft,” he said. “At no time was there any danger to the public.”
As CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, the FBI said the investigation was prompted by a telephone call made by a woman in Boston, who claimed a passenger on the flight might pose a bomb threat.
A woman who was on the plane was detained and questioned after the plane landed, according to the FBI. Investigators determined the threat was a hoax.
“It turned out that this was a domestic dispute. There was no threat, or bomb threat, that was able to be verified,” he said.
Authorities said the woman removed from the flight wouldn’t be charged with a crime. It wasn’t known as of Monday afternoon whether the woman who called in the threat would be charged.
Gason Patterson was seated next to the woman who was removed from the plane.
“She seemed very ill. She was crying, and weeping, and so I asked her if she was okay a couple times; and she said yes. She spilled coffee on me a couple times,” Patterson said. “But she was fine and she was just distraught over something, there’s no doubt.”
Passengers were told their flight was being diverted because of mechanical problems, but when police met the plane, they knew that wasn’t the case.
“She hadn’t noticed the police. She looked out the window, and then she … got on the phone. She made a couple of calls, and that’s when I said ‘they’re here for you,’ and she looked at me, and she’s like, she shook her head. I’m like ‘you know why they’re here,’” Patterson said. He said the woman nodded to him.
Fellow passenger Tony LaGreca said, “The FBI came on the plane and took her off. It was pretty peaceful, though. They took her off, you know, very easily.”
LaGreca recorded some of the police activity with his cell phone, but then he and other passengers were ordered off the plane too.
“They made us leave our cell phones and any electronic devices on the plane. Then they took us out to the tarmac,” he said.
Patterson said when the other passengers were taken off the plane, they saw the woman in the back of a police squad car.
After the plane was swept for explosives, it was cleared to resume the flight to Chicago. Officials said all passengers were given the option of going on to Chicago, but some passengers had already missed meetings scheduled in Chicago and were re-booked for flights back to Boston.
The flight eventually arrived at O’Hare just after noon, more than 3 1/2 hours after its scheduled arrival. Many passengers said they didn’t really know what was going on when the plane was diverted to Buffalo, but when they saw all the police and FBI on the tarmac, they knew something was very wrong.
Passenger Elaine Meehan said, “They did a really good job. They took wonderful care of us. They got us in and out, and we’re all fine.”