KGUN 9News


Man makes threat; plane diverted to TIA

Posted at 5:40 PM, Jun 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-23 20:34:19-04

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Delta flight 5720 was diverted to Tucson International Airport and escorted by two F-16's following reports of interference with the flight crew.

According to Ryan Healy, a male passenger aboard the flight was escorted off the plane by authorities. Healy was told by a flight attendant the man made a verbal threat to the aircraft.

Tucson Airport Authority are calling the incident a "verbal disturbance." Captain Scott Bader says about 80 people including the flight crew were on the Delta plane at the time of the incident. 

TAA says the suspect was taken into custody when the plane landed. The suspect was removed from the aircraft by law enforcement without incident and was sent for a mental health evaluation.

The passengers on the plane were transported back to the terminal for re-screening.

Authorities searched the aircraft and found nothing dangerous.

Bader says that in his 10 years at TAA police something like this has never happened. 

The Pima County Sheriff's Department, Tucson Police, the Tucson Fire Department, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection assisted in the incident. Bader says it took about 20 minutes for them to repsond. 

Around 3:45 p.m. Bader says air traffic controllers were notified the plane was being diverted to TIA. He said that call was made by federal officers.

"My officers did everything they were supposed to do," Bader said. "They were extremely efficient and executed this in a very timely manner."

"We've had other incidents with interference with flight crew, but nothing to this magnitude," Bader said.

Lt. Lacy Roberts, a spokesperson with the 162nd Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard tells KGUN that two F-16's from the Arizona Air National Guard based at Davis-Monthan were called to escort the commercial airplane to TIA.

Passengers took off for Los Angeles around 8 p.m.

The FBI has the man in their custody and are interviewing him. His identity has not been released.

The U.S. Attorney's Office will determine whether charges will be filed against the passenger.