NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Delta flight to Madrid took off Friday morning from John F. Kennedy International Airport hours after a bomb scare forced it back to the ground.
Investigators are trying to piece together what exactly happened on Delta Flight 126.
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Flight 126 left the gate around 8 p.m. Thursday. The pilot turned the plane around in mid-air about an hour later after a passenger found a suspicious device in the bathroom, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.
The device was described by law enforcement sources as two pieces of plastic attached by wires and possibly a straw, Brown reported.
The passenger told crew members, and four air marshals aboard the plane — who then alerted the pilot.
The pilot made the call to turn the plane around in mid-air and head back to JFK “out of an abundance of caution,” a Delta spokeswoman said in a statement.
As the plane was returning, sources said a female passenger had a panic attack, drawing the attention of crew members and raising the suspicion of the pilot who radioed his concerns to air traffic control:
“Yes, sir. We, uh, we have a lady that is on oxygen, that the flight attendants want paramedics for. But we think she’s the one this is supposed to be the decoy that keeps looking at the gentleman that was playing with the possible explosive device in the lavatory,” the pilot said. “So if she gets off the airplane with paramedics, she needs a police escort also, but we’re gonna want a paramedic to take her off.”
The plane landed safely at Kennedy Airport and taxied to a remote area of the runway where the 206 passengers were evacuated, bussed away, debriefed and questioned.
The man and woman who had appeared suspicious were briefly questioned and released. No one is currently in custody, Brown reported.
NYPD bomb squad teams examined the plane, eventually determining the device was not a live explosive. However, officials have not completely ruled out the possibility that someone was putting together an explosive device, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported. An NYPD source said it was “unknown whether a plotter was interrupted or panicked and left the material behind.”
Yet another security experts believes somebody purposely left the items there.
“There was some intention behind it. Whether to see what happens, or maybe it was the dry run,” former FBI investigator William Daly told CBS 2’s Dick Brennan.
The FBI has the device in its possession and wants to know what it is, what it was designed for and whether it has any kind of a role in a larger terror plot, CBS 2’s Brown reported.
Sources told Kramer that given current terror concerns Thursday night’s response by local law enforcement officials was appropriate. And, according to Daly, if the incident was a test by terrorists, the passengers passed.
“It goes to show you that people are seeing something and saying something even at 30,000 feet in the air, and that’s good,” Daly told CBS 2’s Brennan.
The plane finally departed for Madrid at 3:43 a.m. Friday.
“It’s scary because the airport is supposed to … they’re supposed to check more after what happened so I’m pretty scared,” said traveler Eva Garcia.
“We’ve kinda gotten used to it sadly enough — again gotten used to it because they’re usually false alarms thank God, but I’d rather be on the safe side,” said traveler Robert Izquierdo.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King told CBS 2’s Kramer security concerns leading up to the Olympics in London are uppermost on the minds of officials.
“We’re always supposed to be very alert, but I would say even more so now because of the Olympics. That’s what we’re most looking for right now, something that could be connected to the Olympics,” Rep. King said.
Earlier this month, intelligence sources raised fears of a possible new terror plot involving Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula targeting American airliners.
“Al-Qaeda has never lost its fascination with commercial aviation,” “CBS This Morning” Senior Correspondent John Miller said. “Yemen has been specifically given this assignment which is find a way to blow up a U.S. plane.”
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