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Thomas H. Farrow, 82; FBI agent put his own life at risk to negotiate skyjacker's surrender in 1973

August 10, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Thomas H. Farrow, 82, a retired FBI agent who once talked a gun-wielding skyjacker into surrendering, died Monday of congestive heart failure at a hospital in Harrisonburg, Va.

On Jan. 2, 1973, Farrow was called to an airport in Baltimore to investigate reports that a hijacker, Charles August Wenige, was holding two flight attendants hostage aboard a Piedmont Airlines jet. Among Wenige's demands were a meeting with Baltimore's Cardinal Lawrence Shehan and being flown to Toronto.

Farrow began talking to the hijacker by radio and was allowed to enter the aircraft. For two hours, Wenige pointed his .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol at the agent's head as Farrow negotiated the release of the hostages. Later in the evening, the 74-year-old cardinal entered the plane and talked to the hijacker. Farrow eventually talked Wenige into releasing the hostages and surrendering.

Farrow, who was the agent in charge in the FBI's Baltimore office when the incident took place, subsequently said the night "was the scariest thing I've ever been through with the bureau."

A native of West Virginia, Farrow worked in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. He earned a business administration degree at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Va.

He joined the FBI in 1951 and worked in Washington, D.C., as well as regional offices in Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City and Springfield, Ill. He retired from the bureau in 1975 and became director of corporate security at the Martin Marietta Corp. plant in Middle River, Md.

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