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Special Focus:  Mental Health, Substance Abuse, & Terrorism

Terrorist Attacks Averted Since September 11, 2001

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Published On: December 23, 2001          Updated On: January 07, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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Terrorist Attacks Averted Since September 11, 2001

Jan 7, 2002

 

Departing Flight Disrupted at Los Angeles Airport by Passenger Who Hits Attendant

The Associated Press

January 8, 2001:  Southwest Airlines Flight 1702 Disrupted By drunken Passenger

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A passenger on a flight about to depart from Los Angeles International Airport was arrested after he punched a flight attendant and opened the plane's rear door, authorities said.  The attendant was treated for minor injuries. No one else was hurt.  Authorities said the Las Vegas-bound plane was pulling away from the gate when a 6-foot-2, 210-pound passenger stood up.  "He approached the rear of the aircraft with a shoe in his hand and as a flight attendant tried to prevent him from opening the rear door, he hit her in the head with his fist," FBI spokesman Matthew McLaughlin said.  The man, who authorities said was believed to have been drinking, got the door open but surrendered when two male passengers moved to subdue him. He was jailed without bail pending an appearance in federal court Tuesday, the FBI spokesman said.  Southwest Airlines Flight 1702 departed about two hours after the incident.  (AP-ES-01-07-02 2337EST)

January 8, 2001: Man Arrested At Chicago's Midway Airport With Weapons

The Associated press reported On January 8, 2001 that a 20-year-old man was arrested Monday after security screeners at Chicago's Midway Airport found four pocket knives, a box cutter, two flares and a bottle of lighter fluid in his carry-on bag.  Sgt. Robert Cargie said police did not know why the man had the items in his possession. The man was not immediately charged.  (AP-ES-01-07-02 2359EST)

December 23, 2001:  American Airlines Flight 63 - Paris to Miami

<Read The Associated Press Story Of December 23, 2001>

A terrorist bombing was averted on American Airlines Flight 63 from Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris to Miami, Florida.  Passengers noticed a  tall, pony-tailed man standing alone, stone-faced, with a blank stare before boarding.  During the flight, the suspect, who was sitting behind the wing in the coach section of the Boeing 767, lit a match, but put it in his mouth when confronted by a flight attendant.  The 'Flight Attendant told the captain and returned to see Reid with a match held to the tongue of his sneaker and then noticed a wire protruding from the shoe. She tried to grab the sneaker, but Reid allegedly pushed her to the floor, and she screamed for help.  Another flight attendant intervened and the 6-foot-4 suspect bit her on the thumb.  Passengers subdued the man, some taking off their belts to strap him into his seat, officials said. Two doctors used drugs from the airplane's medical kit to sedate him.  The plane, carrying 183 passengers and 14 crew members, was escorted to Logan International Airport by two F-15 fighter jets.

10/18/01 Grey Hound Bus From Salt Lake City

Passengers on a Greyhound bus overpowered a hijacker who grabbed the steering wheel and threatened to flip the vehicle, authorities said. AP report
[Reality keeps playing itself out. The biggest defense we have is our own passengers. That is why we must move beyond arming pilots to arming trained passengers on aircraft.]

On October 8, 2001:  American Airlines Flight 1228 - Paris to Chicago8

Edward Coburn, 31, a passenger on American Airlines Flight 1238 from Los Angeles, California, to Chicago was subdued by passengers after he tried to storm the cockpit of the airplane.  

 

Substance in Shoe of Passenger on Flight Diverted to Boston Tests Positive for Explosives

Published: Dec 23, 2001

BOSTON (AP) - Preliminary FBI tests found explosives in the sneakers that a passenger tried to ignite aboard a Boeing 767 jetliner, and the man was charged Sunday with the federal crime of assaulting a flight crew.

His identity remained unclear. He was listed in court papers Sunday as Richard C. Reid, the name on his British passport. French authorities identified him as a Sri Lankan named Tariq Raja. In London, Scotland Yard said they believed the suspect was a British national.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday ordered airlines and airports to guard against passengers boarding planes with explosives hidden in their shoes. Technology that detects traces of explosives on carry-on baggage can also be used to check passengers' shoes.

Reid, 28, was charged Sunday in a federal criminal complaint with intimidation or assault of a flight crew causing interference with their duties. He faces a maximum 20 years in prison if convicted.

An initial court appearance was set Monday morning, the FBI said. Reid was being held under constant watch Sunday in a jail in Plymouth, according to Mike Seele, spokesman for the Plymouth County Sheriff's Department.

Officials at the British consulate in Boston have arranged to meet with Reid before Monday's hearing, a consulate spokeswoman said.

French police opened an investigation Sunday to determine how Reid eluded increased security measures at Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris, where American Airlines Flight 63 took off Saturday.

Passengers on the flight said they had noticed the tall, pony-tailed man standing alone and stone-faced before boarding.

"He had a blank look," Nicholas Green, a 27-year-old French trader, said. "The people who had seen him, remembered him."

During the flight, the suspect, who was sitting behind the wing in the coach section of the Boeing 767, lit a match, but put it in his mouth when confronted by flight attendant Hermis Moutardier, according to an FBI affidavit.

She told the captain and returned to see Reid with a match held to the tongue of his sneaker, then noticed a wire protruding from the shoe. She tried to grab the sneaker, but Reid allegedly pushed her to the floor, and she screamed for help.

Another flight attendant, Cristina Jones, intervened and the 6-foot-4 Reid bit her, authorities said.

"He bit Ms. Jones on the thumb and Ms. Moutardier threw water in his face," FBI agent Margaret G. Cronin said in the statement.

Passengers subdued the man, some taking off their belts to strap him into his seat, officials said. Two doctors used drugs from the airplane's medical kit to sedate him.

The plane, carrying 183 passengers and 14 crew members, was escorted to Logan International Airport by two F-15 fighter jets.

Since Sept. 11, some pilots have urged passengers to attack anyone who tries to interfere with the operation of a plane. On Oct. 8, Edward Coburn, 31, was subdued by passengers after he tried to storm the cockpit of an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles.

Passengers on one of the airliners hijacked on Sept. 11 are believed to have fought their hijackers and caused the aircraft to crash in Pennsylvania instead of into an apparent Washington target.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Boston said Sunday that preliminary FBI tests showed "two functional improvised explosive devices" in the man's shoes, described by a passenger as hightop sneakers.

"There will be further tests to determine exactly what he had," said a federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Logan officials described the substance as consistent with the military plastic explosive C-4.

In Washington, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the FBI told him in a briefing Sunday there were explosives in the suspect's shoes.

"This is taken very, very seriously," Shelby said on CBS-TV's "Face the Nation." "From what I've observed, this man was trying to blow himself up, blow the plane up. Is this part of a widespread deal or is this guy acting alone? We don't know yet."

Sunday's FAA directive followed a similar warning to airlines on Dec. 11 that potential hijackers might try to smuggle weapons in their shoes. Officials wouldn't say what intelligence prompted the warning.

French authorities said Reid had tried to board the same flight Friday but was turned away after raising suspicions.

French police said the suspect - who also has gone by a third name, Abdel Rahim - was given permission to board after intensive questioning, but by then had missed Friday's flight. He had only one small bag with him and said he was traveling to Antigua to visit relatives, police said.

After Reid was taken into custody at Logan, the other passengers spent 10 hours being searched and questioned. Most later boarded another plane to Miami, which landed early Sunday.

"Some thought this was a terrorist attack," said Geoffrey Bessin, a New York-born software designer who lives in France. "A lot of others thought it was taken care of, and nothing bad happened, so let's go back to our movie."

Logan was the airport where two planes departed Sept. 11 before they were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

In the aftermath of the attacks, acting Gov. Jane Swift fired airport security chief Joseph Lawless. Later, Virginia Buckingham resigned as executive director of Massport, which runs Logan, amid promises by state officials to improve security.

Associated Press reporters John Solomon in Washington and Pamela Sampson in Paris contributed to this report.

AP-ES-12-23-01 2058EST

American Airlines Flight 1238
Man faces charges after allegedly storming cockpit

October 9, 2001 Posted: 2:14 PM EDT (1814 GMT)

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- A man who allegedly stormed the cockpit of an American Airlines jet was scheduled to appear in federal court Tuesday to face charges of interfering with a flight crew, a felony offense.

Edward Coburn, 31, whom a federal agent described as mentally impaired, was a passenger on board American Airlines Flight 1238 from Los Angeles, California, to Chicago when he allegedly rushed up the aisle of the Boeing 767 toward the cockpit. He was to appear before a U.S. magistrate at 10:30 a.m. (11:30 a.m. EDT) in Chicago, the U.S. attorney's office said.

"I heard this rumble coming up like a stampede, and they were saying, 'He's going for the cockpit,' " said Bill Neff, a passenger who witnessed the event. "The ... man says, 'The pilots are gonna go for the Sears Tower.' He was distraught and stressed."

Coburn made it into the cockpit, the FBI confirmed Tuesday.

Neff said he and other male passengers ran "full gallop" toward the man and subdued him with demonstration seat belts used by flight attendants before takeoff.

"They tied his hands, they tied his feet, and they literally carried the man back in the back section, away from the cabin door," Neff said. Coburn continued yelling for another 15 minutes, Neff said.

The pilot initially did not know for certain what was happening outside the cockpit.

He either radioed for help or hit a hijack alert button, said FBI agent Ross Rice. Two Air Force F-16s then were dispatched, Rice said, and "winged" the plane down to the runway at O'Hare International Airport without incident.

None of 162 people aboard was injured.

Once on the ground, federal officials boarded the plane and took Coburn into custody. The FBI said Coburn will be charged Tuesday with interference with a flight crew.

Neff said the passengers were "scared but calm" and fully prepared to prevent any incident such as the terrorist hijackings on September 11.

"I'm an instrument pilot. I was already premeditated that if something like this were to ever occur, I knew that it's my duty to just charge ahead and do what I can do," Neff said. "I would jump in the pilot's seat and be talked down."

"Fifty percent of the men would have been up there at the front, to be honest with you," he added.

 

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