Flight diverts to Salt Lake after threatening note
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A United Airlines jetliner that made an emergency landing Thursday after a threatening note was found in the galley resumed its flight after seven hours on the ground.
Flight 741, carrying 168 passengers and six crew, was en route from Denver to San Francisco a flight attendant found the note and the pilot decided to divert to Salt Lake City.
Police searched the 757 for explosives, although airline spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said early reports that the threat contained a reference to a bomb were incorrect.
“I can’t tell you what was in it, but I can tell you what wasn’t,” Urbanski told The Associated Press.
Urbanski said she could not disclose the contents of the note, but said the threat was considered credible by the pilot and crew.
Salt Lake City International Airport officials and the local FBI office initially cited reports of a bomb threat.
FBI spokeswoman Debbie Dujanovic Bertram said she could neither confirm nor deny United’s claims Thursday evening. In a written statement, Bertram said law enforcement searched the plane for explosives and “cleared it.”
The plane left Denver about 8:23 a.m. MST and landed at Salt Lake City International Airport about 9:45 a.m. The pilot announced the discovery of the “credible threat” to passengers over the intercom and said the plane would land in Salt Lake City within 12 minutes.
“I was anxious, I’ll tell you that,” said Todd Rodvold, 44, of Denver, who was headed to California on business and called the experience a “movie-type deal.”
“I just wanted to get on the ground,” he said.
Mary Beth Winski, 65, of Durango, called the pilot’s announcement “surreal.”
“You say a prayer right away,” Winski’s husband, Bob Winski said. “Then you start thinking, what are my options here? What are the options for the crew?”
Bob Winski, 66, a pilot who flies search-and-rescue missions for the Civil Air Patrol, said the rapid landing indicated the pilot believed the threat was credible.
“But nobody panicked,” Mary Beth Winski said.
Once on the ground, passengers sat on the plane for nearly an hour before handing over their IDs to FBI agents and being bused to the international terminal. Each passenger was interviewed by the FBI before being released.
From row 22, Bob Winski said he saw nothing unusual in the minutes before the pilot’s announcement, but wonders if the note was the work of an actual terrorist or just a disgruntled person upset with the airline or one of its passengers.
“But you don’t know,” Mary Beth Winski interjected. “It’s all speculation. I mean, you can guess forever.”
Associated Press writer Doug Alden contributed to this report from Salt Lake City.