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No explosives found on diverted US Airways flight

May 22, 2012|By Brian Bennett

WASHINGTON — The crowded US Airways flight from Paris to Charlotte, N.C., had just reached the northeastern tip of Canada when one of the passengers, a French citizen who was born in Cameroon, handed a flight attendant a cryptic note that said she had something hidden inside her body.

Alarmed that the woman could be carrying a surgically implanted bomb, the crew notified authorities. U.S. fighter jets were scrambled, and the pilot was told to make an emergency landing in Bangor, Maine.

State and federal agents met the plane when it landed, and the woman was arrested. An initial investigation has found no bomb on the plane, and no immediate sign that the woman had explosives somehow secreted inside her, said a senior law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI warned airlines last year that terrorists may try to surgically implant bombs inside the bodies of passengers.

The passenger flight, which took off from Paris early Tuesday morning with 179 passengers and nine crew members, crossed the northern Atlantic and was scheduled to fly down the East Coast of the United States to its final destination at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

But once the crew alerted the Transportation Security Administration of “a passenger who exhibited suspicious behavior” on board, the pilot was told to change course, head west into Maine and land at the airport in Bangor, said TSA spokeswoman Sterling Payne.

A pair of F-15 fighter jets launched from Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Mass., at 11:40 a.m., said John Cornelio, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD. The jets met the airliner, US Airways flight 787, and escorted the plane through U.S. airspace.

Authorities are still investigating what prompted the woman to pass the note.

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brian.bennett@latimes.com

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