FBI: No threat to Boston-Chicago flight sent to NY

March 12, 2012 - 3:55 PM

BUFFALO, N.Y (AP) — A domestic dispute was likely at the root of a possible bomb scare that forced a Boston-to-Chicago flight carrying 83 passengers to land in Buffalo on Monday, but there was never a real threat, the FBI said.

Steven Lanser, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Buffalo office, said authorities got a call Monday morning regarding JetBlue's Flight 923, which left Boston's Logan International Airport en route to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. A woman caller in the Boston area said there was a woman aboard who could possibly pose a threat.

The Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston located the caller; Lanser did not identify her but said charges are possible. He would not provide any other details of the call or say how the women knew each other, but said authorities determined it involved a domestic dispute.

"It appears it wasn't a valid threat," Lanser said.

The pilot was told what was happening, but passengers were only told they were diverting to Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where it landed about 8:30 a.m.

Passenger Gason Patterson of Boston said he sat next to the woman, who had been crying during the trip. When the plane landed in Buffalo, Patterson said the woman indicated she knew the police were coming for her.

The woman was taken off the flight and questioned. She was later released without being charged.

"No one on the plane knew what was going on, except for me," Patterson said later in Chicago, after the plane was allowed to resume the trip without the detained woman.

"When we landed you could see all of the lights and sirens and marshals," Patterson said. "They swept the plane. They brought dogs on the plane and had the dogs go around each person."

Passengers got off the plane on the tarmac and were taken by shuttle to the terminal. The bomb-sniffing dogs found nothing after checking the passenger compartment, baggage and all passengers, authorities said.

"We're very confident that there was no explosive device on the aircraft," said George Gast, chief of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority police department.

The incident began with a call to JetBlue's corporate headquarters "alleging there could be a situation relative to a bomb threat by a passenger on the plane," Buffalo airport spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said.

JetBlue confirmed the flight was diverted "due to a security issue" and referred questions to the FBI.

The flight left Boston at 6:32 a.m. and was scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 8:31 a.m.

There was no disruption to airport services in Buffalo.

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Associated Press Writer Michelle Nealy contributed to this report from Chicago.