U.S. F-16 fighter jets escort a plane back to Canada due to a bomb threat
Two U.S. F16 fighter jets were scrambled to escort a Panama City-bound flight from Canada back to Toronto on Friday after a man on the plane apparently threatened to blow up the aircraft, authorities said.
Sunwing Airlines Flight 772, which left Toronto Pearson International Airport at 7 a.m. ET, was over West Virginia when “an agitated customer made a direct threat against the aircraft” about 45 minutes into the flight to Panama City, the Canadian carrier said in a statement.
The pilots decided to turn the flight, with 183 passengers and six crewmembers aboard, back to Canada, while F-16 fighter jets on a training run outside Toledo, Ohio, were scrambled to accompany the plane back to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, CBC News reported.
Video shot by a passenger showed armed Canadian law enforcement officers shouting “heads down, hands up” as they stormed aboard the aircraft in helmets and tactical gear after it was escorted back to Toronto.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command was alerted at 8:20 a.m. ET. Two Ohio Air National Guard fighter jets out of Toledo that were in the air on a training mission were diverted to intercept the plane after it turned around, said NORAD spokesman Preston Schlachter.
“We heard him speaking, we heard him yelling. He was being pretty belligerent, using a lot of cuss words,” Phil Thompson told Global News. “He said he didn’t care what happened to the plane or the people on it and he didn’t like Canada and didn’t care about Canada. He didn’t care about the consequences of his actions, he literally didn’t care if the plane went down.”
Ali Shahi, a 25-year-old Canadian citizen from Mississauga, Ontario, was arrested on charges that include uttering threats, mischief to property and endangering the safety of an aircraft. He was being held Friday pending a bail hearing Saturday in Brampton, Ontario.
Shahi’s father, who went unnamed, told CBC News that his son has dealt with mental health issues. “I am sorry for what happened on the flight, but Ali is not at fault,” he told the news outlet. “I blame the police and health system. We called the police for help more than 23 times in the last two to three years, but unfortunately they did nothing to help us or help my son.” Read more about the story here.