By Ben Simmoneau
PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) – A flight that departed from Philadelphia International Airport Thursday morning was returned to the airport after a tip call claimed a passenger aboard the plane had explosives. The incident was later deemed a hoax, perhaps related to a love triangle. Sources say a male and female are now in federal custody undergoing questioning related to the incident.
“At this time, all indications are that this was a hoax and a pretty nasty trick was played on a passenger,” Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan said.
The US Airways plane departed from the airport at about 8 a.m., but was forced to return after being in the air for approximately 40 minutes. Police say an anonymous phone call was placed to the airport police. Sources say during the phone call, the caller gave the airport police a passenger’s name and stated that the passenger had explosives and was scheduled to fly to Texas between 8 and 10 a.m.
Airport police then checked the plane’s manifest and found a passenger with the name aboard US Airways Flight 1267 that was airborne and bound for Dallas, Texas.
In a phone call with the Associated Press, 29-year-old Christopher Shell identified himself as the victim of the apparent hoax.
Shell declined further comment. His Facebook page is filled with references to the episode and even photos of Shell aboard the plane before departure.
“We just spent a half-hour in the air to be notified that the plane, ‘has technical difficulties’ and had to fly back! Flight 1267 CANCELED,” Shell later wrote, apparently unaware he was the reason for the plane’s return.
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The plane was near Harrisburg when it was rerouted back to Philadelphia. Once on the ground, armed Philadelphia SWAT members boarded the rear of the plane, removed Shell and took him into custody for questioning.
His carry-on bag was checked by police, who did not find anything suspicious. Through an investigation, police determined the tip call was a hoax and Shell was released.
CBS News is reporting that the hoax may be related to a love triangle between the briefly-detained passenger and a former girlfriend and her new boyfriend. CBS News says a possible dispute between the three may have led to the hoax phone call. According to CBS News, the former girlfriend and her new boyfriend wanted to make the man’s life miserable and placed the hoax call. It was not immediately known which one allegedly placed the phone call.
Police say the tip caller now faces federal charges.
Sources tell Eyewitness News, a male and female are now in federal custody undergoing questioning in connection to the incident.
The 69 passengers and five crew members aboard the plane were removed and screened. The plane was also screened and cleared after no explosives were found and passengers re-boarded the plane and left for Texas.
The FBI is investigating along with Philadelphia police.
Airport operations were not impacted and no delays were reported.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The AssociatedPress contributed to this report.)