Passenger’s Implant Claim Triggers Flight Diversion
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) — A passenger who claimed to have a device surgically implanted inside her spurred authorities to divert a North Carolina-bound jetliner to Maine on Tuesday, federal officials said.
Doctors aboard US Airways Flight 787 examined the woman and found no sign of recent scars, according to the office of Rep. Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. A federal law enforcement source who had been briefed on the matter told CNN the woman would likely receive a psychological evaluation and posed “basically no threat.”
Nevertheless, the Paris-to-Charlotte flight made an unscheduled stop in Bangor “out of an abundance of caution,” the Transportation Security Administration said. U.S. fighter jets escorted the plane to the airport, and passengers said the woman was taken off the plane in handcuffs after landing.
The Boeing 767 carried 179 passengers and a crew of nine, US Airways spokeswoman Liz Landau told CNN. Andrew Kobayashi, a passenger on the flight, said the woman was sweaty and acting nervous.
“I had briefly noticed her in the back of the plane being a weirdo,” said Kobayashi, who was seated several rows further forward.
A senior federal law enforcement official told CNN that authorities have determined that no bomb was involved in the incident. The woman handed a note to the flight crew indicating that she had had a device implanted in her body, but did not say the device was a bomb or that she was threatening the flight, the official said.
While still in the air, the plane’s crew told passengers the flight was landing in Bangor because of uncharacteristically strong headwinds that that required the flight to take on more fuel, Kobayashi and other passengers said. But after the jet landed, they said one of the pilots apologized to passengers for the deception.
“He said he normally liked to keep the passengers informed, but the TSA and customs control had ordered him to do this,” passenger William Milam told CNN.
Kobayashi said authorities boarded the plane after landing in Bangor and handcuffed the woman, who appeared to be in her mid-20s to mid-30s.
“I was more bewildered than worried. It was happening very quickly and very quietly,” he said.
Milam said he had helped the woman stow her carry-on luggage. She had been one of the last passenger to board the flight in Paris, and she was moved to the front of the plane before it took off.
“Then there were announcements that someone was ill, and was there a doctor onboard. It turned out that it was for her,” he said.
The doctor and flight attendants helped her to the back of the plane, where she remained for several hours without incident.
King’s office said the woman is a Cameroon-born French citizen who was headed to the United States for a 10-day visit. She was traveling alone and had no checked baggage.
There was no indication she was on any kind of government watch list, the federal law enforcement source said.
CNN’s Dana Ford, Lizzie O’Leary, Terry Frieden, Deirdre Walsh, Deborah Feyerick, Chuck Johnston, Bill Mears and Aaron Cooper contributed to this report.