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RPSO responds to report of hazardous material onboard aircraft at AEX

FBI says there is no threat to public safety
Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 1:59 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 31, 2020 at 3:39 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB, RPSO) - UPDATE as of 12/31/2020: We received the following statement from Mike Small, who has been representing the family involved with the AEX incident:

“I first spoke to the two young boys and their mother yesterday regarding the incident on board the United Airlines flight which made an unscheduled landing here in Alexandria. At the time all three were in the presence of numerous state and federal law enforcement officials including several FBI agents. Significantly the young men were released by law enforcement at that time after I was assured no state or federal charges were contemplated. I have since met in person with the young men and their mother and am convinced that the entire episode has been blown completely out of proportion. There was simply no bomb threat and I can only assume that any statement on the contrary was the result of a misunderstanding on the part of a presumably well meaning fellow passenger.”

According to RPSO, sheriff’s dispatch received a call from the Rapides 911 Center around 12:24 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 30 concerning an inbound aircraft emergency.

According to initial reports, information was received that there was a possible explosive device onboard an inbound United Airlines aircraft to Alexandria International Airport (AEX).

Deputies, along with England Airpark Fire Department, responded to the scene, where the passengers were off-loaded and the scene was secured. Two juveniles were detained as a result.

News Channel 5 spoke with a passenger, Megann Cox, who contacted us about what was happening.

“We were mid-air and they made the announcement that we would be making an unexpected stop in Alexandria. Never indicated why. We got to the airport here, got off the runway on these spurs on the tarmac. Shortly after we got here, they powered the engine down, turned all the electricity off, including the air circulation. We’ve been sitting in stagnant air for probably a good 40 or 45 minutes. They offered us some cold water, which was nice. They did not offer us any explanation until about 30 minutes in, that there was a customer service issue and they needed to address that. There has been nothing else. There’s been no - apparently, there may be an attempt to get us off the plane, because they brought a set of portable steps out here. I don’t think maybe they’re tall enough. But, this is a completely full flight coming from Jackson to Houston. So, we’re all missing our connections.”

Megann Cox

We reached out to the FBI. They say there is no threat to public safety, and the passengers have moved on to their destinations.

“FBI New Orleans is aware of the incident which occurred at the Alexandria, LA airport today. Through a coordinated effort involving our law enforcement partners, specifically the Louisiana State Police, Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office, Transportation Security Administration, US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana, Rapides Parish Homeland Security, Rapides Parish District Attorney, and the England Airpark Authority we are thankful to report there was no threat to public safety and all diverted airline passengers have proceeded to their destinations.”

FBI New Orleans

Megann Cox contacted KALB after this statement was made and said the other passengers and her were actually still at the airport waiting:

#WATCH The United Airlines passenger we've been speaking to, who is among roughly 50 who were diverted to AEX today from...

Posted by Brooke Buford on Wednesday, December 30, 2020

#UPDATE The passenger on this #UnitedAirlines flight we’ve been speaking to says they HAVE NOT left AEX. This is the plane that was diverted because of an explosive threat that was unfounded. (United)

Posted by Brooke Buford on Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Mike Small confirms to KALB, after we learned through sources, that he acted as the attorney after being contacted by family of two juveniles who were detained in the matter involving the United Airlines flight.

“It is my understanding that no criminal charges would be filed. They were released during my conversation,” Small said.

RPSO Bomb Squad, along with local agents with the FBI, assisted in the investigation.

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