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Explosive Found on Board American Airlines Flight

Aired December 22, 2001 - 16:55   ET


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take you to Boston now for a news conference going on the story that we're following, an American Airlines flight apparently from Paris to Miami diverted to Boston, because a man was found with some type of explosive device. This is the director of aviation, let's listen in to what he is saying.

TOM KINTON, AVIATION DIRECTOR, LOGAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: I'm told there appears to be -- I have not seen him directly, but I'm told -- is that correct, captain?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct. I saw him as he was removed from the aircraft. He appears to be of Middle Eastern dissent.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I couldn't go any further than that.

QUESTION: What was the name?

KINTON: What was the name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The name he had on his passport was Reid. Last name Reid. And first name Richard.


QUESTION: Are you confident that that is an accurate name, or that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not confident at all. The immigration officials have looked at the passport, and they're obviously doing an investigation as to, you know, his origin and the nature of the passport. It was allegedly obtained three weeks ago in Belgium. It looks to be a bogus passport, and they are going to track that down.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) enough C-4 (OFF-MIKE) serious damage to the aircraft?

KINTON: We're told by the bomb teams on board that this obviously -- if it indeed is an improvised explosive, that there's certainly enough there to do sufficient damage to an aircraft in flight certainly.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) anything that's been said?

KINTON: I don't have any knowledge of -- I do believe -- and again, this is coming from third -- third hand. I do believe when he was attempted to be subdued, he said he was wired. Words to that effect on board the aircraft.


KINTON: We're told the flight attendants became alerted to a smell of sulfur, which is a match and immediately took action when they saw what this individual was attempting to do, and literally tackled the individual and get into a -- you know, a wrestling match in attempt to subdue and stop this action, and apparently were successful in doing that, thankfully.


KINTON: No. That certainly is -- is different -- is different. But as far as our emergency plan and isolating an aircraft when there's a disruptive passenger on board with an explosive potential, meaning that there was something going on with regards to these shoes, our procedure has been and always has been remote the airplane and deal with it in a remote location, away from the terminals and away from other aircraft.


KINTON: We're told very instrumental. The flight attendants were told by the investigating officers who were obviously hurt during this -- and yelled for help from the other passengers and received that help from the passengers on board the aircraft.


KINTON: Again, don't know. All of that is going to have to be investigated. We're going to have to find out where, when, what part of the airport, and all of that is taking place as I speak.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) wire or package?

KINTON: We're told there were matches.


KINTON: Other passengers are being -- they were in terminal E. I believe they are being taken to another location in the airport, given that this aircraft is going to be here for a while, and the investigation is going to have to involve any number of those passengers, and they are being taken to another sterile area of the airport, I believe somewhere in terminal C.

QUESTION: Is there any chance the (OFF-MIKE)?

KINTON: I don't have any knowledge of that. Would you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it's in the province of the FBI, and re handling the situation, and we wouldn't.




KINTON: Absolutely, very confident that once again becoming aware of a diversion, given the world we live in, and the various security directors and amendments we're operating under, I think, the plan was -- came together and worked according to that plan.


KINTON: We were notified (UNINTELLIGIBLE) two hours of notice to prepare.


KINTON: Flight crews and so forth. This is something unfortunately, given the world where the real thing gets through, we obviously had actions taken on board that aircraft that appeared to have prevented something very serious from occurring.


KINTON: We're going to have to -- obviously, this is reaching the highest levels at this point in Washington, and we're examining it here and we'll be waiting for further direction, emergency amendments of security directives is coming out of Washington related to this kind of an incident and take that direction and act on it.


KINTON: Yes. Yes. Bomb-sniffing dogs are part of the layers of security that are out there, but one -- you know, dogs are not the total answer. And that's why I say layers, there are layers out there, lots of things we don't talk about, because (UNINTELLIGIBLE) can't do all of the work. You'd need hundreds of them because they tire quickly, and you need to hold them through these kinds of emergencies that we had this afternoon.


KINTON: I'm not aware -- I believe it was English, based on what I've been told.


KINTON: Do you know anything about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's all we know.

QUESTION: The explosives, where in the shoe? Were they in the heel, or (OFF-MIKE)? KINTON: I have not seen it, and I have literally -- we were on the phone with the bomb technicians just before we walked in here, so I have not had a face-to-face with them to ask them those kinds of questions, so. I was told shoes.


KINTON: I'm told the flight attendant was drawn to him by the smell of sulfur from a lit match, and then challenged the individual as to what he was doing.


KINTON: Again, only knowing what the bomb technicians are telling me that, you know, that there was enough improvised explosives, you know, to do damage. And again, when I have my face- to-face and this is analyzed, we'll know more. This is just -- I can't tell.


KINTON: I believe it was row 29, I don't have the exact seat number.


KINTON: It would be -- I'm told it was coach, and that would be more to the middle of the airplane than the front or the rear.


KINTON: It was a combination of FBI bomb technicians and Massachusetts State Police troop F bomb technicians here at Logan Airport that follow a very detailed set of procedures when they are examining any suspect explosive, and that is, you know, isolate, get everybody away from it, X-ray, examine the X-rays before you move anything, and then once you are as sure you as you can be based on all of the tests you can do in determining what it is you are dealing with, suit up in their protective gear, remove the suspect explosive, in this case from the aircraft to a remote grassy area on the airport, step back, disrupt it with the gear they have to disrupt it, and then go in and do further analysis. Obviously through a disruption, you have...


KINTON: Render it harmless to the extent you can, and try to get it to blow up and so forth before you go in and then start doing anymore detail...


KINTON: They disrupted it. There was I'm told not a subsequent explosion that occurred, so they still have this improvised explosive, which is a good thing from a lab analysis standpoint that it has not been exploded. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) two hours before it landed (OFF-MIKE).

KINTON: I think the choices are, I believe -- and again, I -- I am almost certain of this, that the pilot was sort of at the point of no return over the Atlantic, that it was easier to continue on, or more efficient and effective to continue on to the U.S. And obviously, there is Newfoundland and Bangor, Maine as you come down the coast, but I believe Boston was chosen because of the facilities that both American Airlines has here as well as the emergency team that is here in Boston that pilot chose this as a base so that the passengers and other issues could be dealt with by the airline, and the investigative them that exists here could do their work.

CALLAWAY: That was Tom Kinton, he's the director of aviation at Logan International Airport.

Here's the story that we're following: Reports of an American Airlines flight, it was from Paris en route to Miami, had to be diverted to Boston when flight attendants smelled sulfur from a burning match. They questioned a man with the match who was apparently wearing shoes with the wire coming out of the shoe. The flight attendant wrestled the man. Several flight attendants involved in that wrestling the individual, several passengers also involved. They were injured in trying to subdue this individual.

Of course, the plane was then diverted to Boston. FBI bomb teams boarded the plane. The passengers were removed. So was the individual. The shoes that the individual was wearing were X-rayed. Apparently, a det-cord was found on the shoe and some type of explosives -- and the word that Tom Kinton, director of aviation, enough explosive to, quote, "do some extensive damage."

What we know about the individual, his name apparently on his passport was Richard Reid. It was a UK passport issued in the past three weeks. Some believe, according to Tom Kinton, that it is a bogus passport. And not a lot of information now on what's being done except that the runway is closed and that the plane involved in this incident is being looked at by the FBI and the bomb teams, going through it with a fine-tooth comb, trying to find anymore information they can. All federal entities are involved in this investigation.

Once again, an individual on a flight, American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami, diverted to Boston when some type of explosive device was found in the shoes of one of the passengers. We will continue to follow the story and have more information for you as it becomes available.




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