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Two persons of interest detained after investigation into possible bomb on plane

FBI: 'There was no threat to public safety' during incident
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Posted at 3:02 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 22:02:28-05

Two persons of interest are being detained by Rapides Parish Sheriff's Deputies after an airplane was diverted to Alexandria International Airport Wednesday because of a possible explosive device on board.

United Airlines flight 4344 left Jackson, Mississippi at 11:39 Wednesday morning and was en route to Houston, according to officials. Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office Dispatch received a call from the Rapides 911 Center of a reported inbound aircraft emergency, and initial reports indicated there was a possible explosive device on board the aircraft.

The plane landed at the Alexandria airport at 12:28 p.m., where the plane remained on the tarmac away from the terminal for more than three hours, according to The Associated Press. Passengers were offloaded at the airport and the scene was secured by law enforcement.

Two persons of interest were detained, but a spokesperson for the sheriff's office confirmed no device or materials were located during the investigation. The FBI field office in New Orleans confirmed Wednesday evening that "there was no threat to public safety" during the incident.

According to KALB, two juveniles were detained by law enforcement officials, and an attorney for their families said it was his understanding no criminal charges would be filed, and that the juveniles were "released during my conversation."

United Airlines made arrangements for the other passengers, and the FBI said Wednesday evening that all diverted passengers have proceeded to their destinations.

The FBI said it could not comment any further on what led to the diversion or if the detained passengers are facing charges in relation to the incident. Their full statement is below:

FBI New Orleans is aware of the incident which occurred at the Alexandria, LA airport today. Through a coordinated effort involving our law enforcement partners, specifically the Louisiana State Police, Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office, Transportation Security Administration, US Attorney's Office for the Western District of Louisiana, Rapides Parish Homeland Security, Rapides Parish District Attorney, and the England Airpark Authority we are thankful to report there was no threat to public safety and all diverted airline passengers have proceeded to their destinations.

KALB spoke with one of the passengers, who said the flight crew announced mid-air that the flight would be making an unexpected stop in Alexandria. She added the crew turned off the engine and all electricity inside the plane, including the air circulation, and were told after about 30 minutes that "they were dealing with a customer service issue."

We reached out to United Airlines, which released a similar statement, saying the flight, CommutAir flight 4344, operating as United Express from Jackson to Houston, diverted to Alexandria "due to a customer-related security issue."

CommutAir flight 4344, operating as United Express from Jackson, Mississippi to Houston, diverted to Alexandria, Louisiana, due to a customer-related security issue. The flight landed safely and was met by local authorities who are investigating the matter further.

A flight track courtesy of FlightAware.com shows flight 4344 diverting from its path at around 12:30 p.m. and landing in Alexandria. The full track can be viewed here.

Flight to Alexandria

The RPSO Bomb Squad, England Airpark Fire Department, and FBI New Orleans assisted in the investigation.

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