(PHILADELPHIA) — A bomb hoax in Philadelphia that turned a Dallas-bound flight around and led to a full-scale SWAT response was apparently triggered by a spiteful ex-girlfriend who telephoned authorities to say her former beau was aboard the US Air flight armed with liquid explosives, police told ABC News.
According to authorities, Christopher Shell, a salesman in his 20’s who travels between Philadelphia and Dallas, had no explosives and is cooperating with authorities.
When asked how Shell reacted when police took him off the plane, Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan said at a news conference, “He was obviously very alarmed as I would be if heavily armed police entered a plane to take me off…he was certainly stunned.”
However, in an unlikely coincidence, Shell had been sped through security by a friend at the airport and posted a message to his Facebook page that getting through security had been a breeze.
The note would have been innocuous in any other circumstance, officials said. In the context of the phoned-in threat alarms went off and bomb techs, cops, FBI agents and K-9 dogs descended on the flight and conducted a full search.
The ex-girlfriend and a man believed to be a current boyfriend are now in custody, sources said. According to sources, they appear to have perpetrated the hoax bomb threat and are being questioned by federal authorities in Philadelphia. Neither the FBI nor the U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia would comment. No charges have been brought against anyone at this time, sources say.
“This is no joke,” Sullivan said. “These will be federal charges…they’re going to be very serious charges.”
He said authorities did not yet have a motive for the hoax.
“It’s just an incredibly foolish and irresponsible thing to do,” he added. “And bottom line, it’s criminal.”
Philadelphia police received a call around 7 a.m. from a person stating that a specific individual had explosive liquid on him and was attempting to get it past TSA and onto the Dallas flight.
Authorities later discovered that the person implicated on the tip call was on the flight to Dallas that had departed at 7:39 a.m. and ordered it to return, according to ABC News’ Philadelphia affiliate WPVI.
The man was being questioned, his luggage was searched and no explosives were found. No explosives were found on the plane.
All 69 passengers and five crew members on flight 1267 are safe.
“As soon as we had the situation on the plane secure, I did speak to all the passengers and they were briefed as to what was going on,” Sullivan said. “All the passengers were extremely cooperative and very understanding, despite the fact that they were all shaken up.”
Philadelphia police officers, FBI bomb technicians and SWAT officers boarded the plane once it had landed and was moved to a safe location. The flight was deemed safe and able to depart for its destination.
“It was a hoax all the way through,” one official involved in the investigation told ABC News.
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