Plane cleared after landing in STL for security check, FBI investigating

Flight diverted to Lambert for security sweep

ST. LOUIS – The FBI is investigating after an American Airlines flight headed to Phoenix, Arizona, was diverted to St. Louis for a ‘security check’ Thursday morning.

St. Louis Airport Police and authorities completed their security sweep around 10:30 a.m. and found no credible security threat.

According to Jeff Lea, a spokesperson for Lambert-St. Louis Airport, American Airlines flight 534 took off from Columbus, Ohio, and made an unscheduled landing in St. Louis around 8:15 a.m. after a 'security issue.' Lea says the 118 people on board were taken off the plane and transported to Terminal 1. 

Scene photos: Plane diverted to STL for security check

American Airlines tells NewsChannel 5 that flight 534 is an Airbus A319 and took off from John Glenn Columbus International Airport at 7:48 a.m. The plane landed in St. Louis at 8:14 a.m. to conduct a security check of the aircraft “out of an abundance of caution.”

During the security check, crews were seen moving all of the baggage from the plane onto the tarmac for police K9s to search.  

According to passengers on the plane, they had no idea the plane was landing over security concerns. Lori Pingle was onboard with her husband and daughter.

She said the passengers were told the landing was due to a maintenance issue related to a wing de-icer. It wasn’t until they landed on the far western runway, a significant distance from the airport that they were told to stay seated and that security would be boarding the plane.

When they did, Pingle said they approached a man, asked him to stand, asked him where his bag was, retrieved it and escorted him off the plane.

That man was allowed to rejoin the passengers about three hours later in the terminal.

Pingle said, she hadn’t noticed any issues with the man during the flight, calling it quiet.

Eventually, all of the passengers were asked to leave the plane, and crews removed their luggage for inspection as well.

Canines were brought in to sniff around the luggage, and any bags carried off the plane by passengers. According to airport officials and the FBI, no credible security threat was found.

All of the bags were then transported back to the terminal and the plane taxied to the gate.

With the all clear, passengers boarded the plane only to have to disembark again because of an actual maintenance issue.

Passengers like Pingle were en route to Hawaii or other vacation destinations were ultimately delayed hours.
While passengers say, they harbor no resentment for the reason to divert the flight to St. Louis, they found the mechanical delays afterward frustrating.

Lambert-St. Louis Airport tweeted they are assisting in a security check and that the airport is fully operational. 

American Airlines posted the following update on their website around 10:30 a.m.: 

"St. Louis Airport Police and other authorities have completed the security sweep of the American Airlines A319 Flt 534 that originated in Columbus, Oh and was destined for Phoenix, AZ before landing at STL.  Authorities found no credible security threat. The aircraft is now cleared to move from its location on the airfield. American Airlines plans to re-board its passengers and continue Flt 534 to Phoenix shortly."

"During the security sweep, Airport staff and crews assisted American Airlines in transporting the 118 passengers and crew to Terminal 1. The airport and our partners provided food and drinks during the process. The passengers will board the aircraft for the continuation of Flt 534 from an STL Terminal 1 gate."

(© 2017 KSDK)


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