Man removed from D/FW-bound flight appears to be hoax victim



Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA & Associated Press reports

Posted on September 6, 2012 at 8:38 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 5 at 7:16 AM

DALLAS - Police have reported that a man removed from a US Airways flight headed to Dallas appeared to be a victim of a phone call hoax.

A flight bound for the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport was forced back to Philadelphia International Airport due to a call of an explosive threat on the plane.

Officials boarded the plane when it landed and Christopher Shell was taken into custody for questioning. Philadelphia police Chief Joseph Sullivan said it was eventually discovered the man was a victim of a "pretty nasty trick."

Sullivan said police at Philadelphia International Airport received a call around 7:30 a.m. that named a passenger who was on his way to D/FW Airport and carrying a dangerous substance. That name matched a passenger on board Flight 1267, prompting officials to decide to turn the aircraft around after it had already flown a third of the way across Pennsylvania.

ABC News has reported Shell's ex girlfriend is believed to have called authorities to say he had liquid explosives on the plane. 

Passengers were removed from the aircraft and bused away as law enforcement vehicles surrounded it. Video showed authorities removing a person from the flight and police dogs on the tarmac.

Sullivan said Shell was very surprised to be approached by officers.

"He was obviously very alarmed, as I would be if heavily armed police officers entered a plane to take me off," Sullivan said. "And he was certainly stunned. And that's why this is no joke, this is no laughing matter."

On Facebook, Shell wrote "I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty disappointed in US Airways currently. We just spent a half hour in the air to be notified that the plane, "has technical difficulties" and had to fly back!" 

Around 8:30 a.m., the plane was cleared after a search.

Sullivan stressed that Shell is not a suspect and did nothing wrong. Police are treating the hoax seriously because it resulted in a heavy police response and a significant hassle for all those on board, he said.

"It's just an incredibly foolish and irresponsible thing to do and, bottom line, it's criminal," Sullivan said.

On the plane, Shell chatted with the passenger next to him. He told News 8 they discussed a recent, rough breakup. Shell's niece also said she knew her uncle was having problems with his ex-girlfriend.

Airport spokeswoman Victoria Lupica says there were 69 passengers and five crew members on board. She said no other flights have been affected by the activity.

The flight was originally scheduled to land at D/FW Airport at 8:44 a.m.