The FBI is investigating a phone call that turned around a U.S. Airways flight bound for Dallas, Texas at 7:30 a.m. this morning after the caller claimed a man on board was carrying a hazardous substance.
"There was a threat, but that threat was unfounded," Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan said today. "That flight was never in any danger and I just want to stress right now that the male that was briefly taken in for investigation has committed no crime."
He said that after the plane returned safely to the Philadelphia International Airport around 8:40 a.m. and its 69 passengers and five crew members were evacuated, the man, identified on social media sites as Christopher Shell, and his luggage were searched by Philadelphia SWAT and bomb technicians. The plane was then swept by bomb-sniffing dogs and investigators concluded there were no dangerous materials aboard.
"This is an ongoing investigation, but at this time, all indications are that this was a hoax and a pretty nasty trick was played on a passenger," Sullivan said. "It resulted in, really, a threat to all of the passengers, so this is now an ongoing investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations."
According to the Shell's Facebook page, he was traveling to his hometown to celebrate his 29th birthday today. He was apparently completely unaware of what was going on when the flight was turned around. "Im not going to lie, I'm pretty disappointed in US Airways currently," he posted at the time. "We just spent a half hour in the air to be notified that the plane, 'has technical difficulties' and had to fly back!" After the scare, he wrote that he will now be staying in Philadelphia for the day.
Multiple outlets are reporting that the "hoax" was allegedly called in by the man's ex-girlfriend.