The evacuation of an American Eagle plane at LaGuardia airport on Saturday afternoon was prompted by a passenger mistaking a vintage camera for what they thought was an improvised explosive device.
The mistake resulted in the pilots of the Embraer 170 regional jet making an emergency landing before flight attendants directed passengers off the plane via an emergency slide at the front of the plane.
All 80 passengers and crew were safely evacuated without injury while one passenger was taken into custody. Video taken of the incident by one of the passengers shows a man spreadeagled on the tarmac as firefighters detain him.
Officials were quick to rule out terrorism and revealed that no suspicious items were found on the plane or the passengers.
According to law enforcement sources cited by the New York Daily News, the man who was arrested was just a “vintage camera aficionado” and that a woman who was sitting across the aisle with her husband and two children mistakenly thought his camera was a bomb.
She initially spotted him scrolling through photos that she thought was bomb-making instructions. When the man retrieved a vintage camera that he started to adjust, she convinced herself that he was setting the timer on a detonator.
“The JTTF [Joint Terrorism Task Force], the FBI and the Port Authority Police Department determined that there was no criminality on the part of the passenger and he was released,” said Port Authority spokesman Tom Topousis told the Daily News.
It was initially reported that the man had been disruptive and may have even made a threat against the aircraft. These initial reports turned out to be incorrect.
“American Eagle flight 4817, operated by Republic Airways with service from Indianapolis to New York (LGA) deplaned on the taxiway at LGA due to a potential security issue. The aircraft landed safely, and all customers deplaned without incident,” a spokesperson for American Airlines said following the incident.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.