Security risk grounds Philadelphia-to-Bermuda flight before takeoff; passengers removed

By Randy Pennell, AP
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Possible security breach grounds flight in Philly

PHILADELPHIA — Transportation security officials removed passengers from a Bermuda-bound flight Thursday at Philadelphia’s airport after reports that someone was helping to load the plane without a security badge.

More than 100 passengers and five crew members were taken off US Airways Flight 1070 over what airport officials called a security concern raised by the airline.

Authorities swept the plane for explosives and found none, FBI spokesman J.J. Klaver told The Associated Press. He said investigators were trying to track down someone who was wearing a US Airways uniform on the tarmac, but said the situation did not appear to have any connection to terrorism.

Philadelphia police said initial reports indicated the person did not have a proper security badge, but Klaver said he could not confirm if the individual was lacking the proper identification.

The flight was scheduled to depart Thursday morning, but passengers were removed and the plane was towed to a secure area for inspection. The Airbus 319 was surrounded by emergency vehicles with lights flashing, and security dogs moved from bag to bag, checking luggage spread on the ground near the jet.

US Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher confirmed the search but would not comment on specifics, citing the ongoing investigation.

The Transportation Security Administration said all passengers were rescreened and nothing suspicious was found.

TSA regulations require airports to submit security plans that include access and perimeter control, and airports are responsible for day-to-day enforcement.

One of the 102 passengers on the plane, Amanda Benner, said travelers were told there was a “security breach” and were asked to leave the plane and go back into the terminal.

“We’ve had to leave everything on the plane and get off,” she told The Associated Press by cell phone.

Benner said TSA personnel, police and “all kinds of guys in suits” quickly swarmed the plane.

“They’re very stern and serious,” she said.

Benner and her husband were en route to Bermuda for a long weekend for their 15th wedding anniversary.

Associated Press writers Randy Pennell in Philadelphia and Eileen Sullivan in Washington contributed to this report.

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