A man described as a “person of interest” by police was in custody Saturday, following a threat regarding a Westjet flight from Kelowna to Calgary scheduled to leave Saturday afternoon.
The man, who police would not identify, was publicly handcuffed in the middle of the Kelowna International Airport terminal and led away by RCMP officers around 2:30 p.m., about two hours after the plane intended to be used for the Calgary flight landed in Kelowna from Edmonton.
A short time later, more officers entered the secure area, behind closed doors adjacent to Arrivals, where the suspect was taken. A police dog trained to sniff out explosives and his handler followed.
While Kelowna RCMP spokesman Const. Kris CLark would not say what the specific threat to the fight was, or how it was received, it is believed a bomb threat was made just after noon, before the plane arrived from Edmonton. The airport immediately instigated its emergency response protocols.
Clark said following a search of the plane, the baggage of passengers arriving on it from Edmonton and the luggage to be loaded on for the flight bound for Calgary, nothing concerning the threat was found.
“But the investigation is continuing,” said Clark.
Airport director Sam Samaddar said as a safety precaution, the plane later flew from Kelowna to Calgary only the flight crew on board and the Calgary bound passengers were accommodated on other later flights.
He said at no time was there a threat to the airport terminal or anyone inside and the airport continued to operate throughout the incident with just a few flights delayed. But as precaution, the plane, when it arrived from Edmonton, was diverted to the end of the runway.
There, the passengers from Edmonton were kept on board for a two hours while their bags and the bags that were to be loaded on for Calgary were checked by the bomb-sniffing police dog.
Some of the arriving passengers were angry about the delay they faced in getting off the plane and the fact they were kept on the plane during what they believed was a bomb threat. They were eventually transferred to busses and driven a short distance away from the plane, but had to stay on the buses for another hour.
“The first indication we had that there was a threat came from the captain,” said passenger Steve Vadnais of Edmonton.
He said passengers, who were well-behave and orderly despite their frustration, were concerned when they were locked in the plane, but could see police officers and airport staff “standing around outside talking and laughing.”
He said he was told there were 186 people on board the flight from Edmonton. Samaddar said the Calgary flight was supposed to have 98 passengers on board.
He said the airport has emergency protocols in place to handle threats such as the one Saturday afternoon and they were activated and ran properly.
The threat to the Calgary fight came amid heightened security at the airport in light of last week’s shooting of a Canadian soldier in Ottawa.
For a time Saturday afternoon, anyone leaving the airport terminal had to show identification.
The airport was also hosting a travel expo at the time, so there were more people in the terminal than normal.
When the threat was received, emergency personnel were ordered to stand by.