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No charges for passenger who prompted La Guardia emergency landing

By Eduardo Medina


A passenger whose erratic behavior prompted pilots to make an emergency landing at La Guardia Airport on Saturday afternoon was not charged after authorities determined that he “did not make a verbal threat” and was not carrying a suspicious item, a spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said.


The man, who was not identified by the Port Authority Police Department, was briefly detained and questioned by authorities, including the FBI, and then released, the spokesperson, Thomas Topousis, said Sunday.


“The Port Authority Police Department determined there was no criminality,” Topousis said in a statement Sunday.


Shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday, a pilot of the plane, which was a Republic Airways aircraft operating as American Flight 4817, told workers at a control tower at La Guardia Airport that he was “declaring an emergency,” according to a recording posted on LiveATC.net.


“We have a situation where a person, a suspicious person, has an item that looks like an explosive device,” the pilot says, according to the recording.


The pilot then says that he is going to land. “We’re planning to turn off the runway, and then we will plan to evacuate,” he says, according to the recording.


The pilot later says that crew members “don’t know what this person has,” adding, “Everyone else is scared on this aircraft.”


After the plane landed, firefighters and police personnel converged on the aircraft, which had traveled from Indianapolis with about 78 passengers aboard.


Passengers exited the plane safely, said a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration, Steve Kulm.


A Republic Airways spokesperson, Jon Austin, said Saturday that an emergency was declared in response to unspecified passenger behavior near the end of the flight.


A video taken on the ground showed emergency responders surrounding a man who was on his stomach as passengers stood nearby. In another video, evacuated passengers are told to “step back” to give responders and the man space.


A passenger aboard the flight described a scene of pandemonium after the plane landed. Fawad Khuja, who was seated in the fourth row, said Saturday that the plane had braked soon after it touched down and that passengers behind him started yelling to get off the plane immediately.


He heard people saying that a man had “a suspicious device.”


“People were panicking and getting shoved to the ground,” he said. “The slide opened and I jumped out. People were sliding and rolling down to the floor. It was crazy.”


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