- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

Military jets helped divert a London flight bound for Washington Dulles International Airport to Boston yesterday after an American woman created a disturbance and was subdued by passengers.

The crew of United Flight 923 requested the emergency landing at Logan International Airport. The plane carrying 182 passengers landed at 10:20 a.m. and taxied to a remote location, where all luggage was removed and examined by bomb-sniffing dogs. No explosive material was found.

Passengers said the women, dressed in a jogging suit, paced up and down the aisle, peppering her incoherent mutterings with the word “Pakistan,” according to the Associated Press.

“She was just writing notes to the crew to give to the captain. And she was standing when she was supposed to be sitting,” said passenger Mackie Christenson of Bedhampton Hill, England, who described the experience to The Washington Times as “scary.”

Homeland Security officials would not identify the woman except to say she is from Vermont and 59 years old.

“It appears there was never any danger to passengers,” the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said in a statement released six hours after the incident. “We currently have no identifiable nexus to terrorism in this incident.”

Officials said the woman had a panic attack, brought on by claustrophobia, and she was restrained in the rear of the plane.

The incident set in motion widespread security responses involving local, state and federal officials.

Two F-15 fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base scrambled within minutes to escort the plane, a precaution resulting from last week’s arrest in London of 24 suspects accused of a plot to smuggle liquid explosives onto trans-Atlantic flights to construct bombs that would bring down as many as 10 planes simultaneously. Although most restrictions have been lifted, such as carrying a purse on board, the ban on liquids remains in effect.

Several passengers said they were unaware during the flight that the plane was being escorted by fighter jets or was being diverted to Boston.

“We didn’t know what was going on. They didn’t say anything. We landed almost without notice,” said passenger Doug Klabec of Bethesda.

The suspect was questioned for hours while passengers waited in a nearby terminal, and the flight resumed to Dulles Airport last night. Upon arriving at Dulles from Boston, passengers described the woman as disheveled.

Katie Bartko said the woman, who “definitely had some sort of look about her that was odd,” was carrying a black case up and down the aisle before two men overtook her near the bathroom, handcuffed her and made her sit down.

After the woman was seated, Miss Bartko said, “she was just kind of mumbling, talking about her water bottle. She was very concerned about her water bottle.”

Miss Bartko’s mother, Joan, said that “my wonder is how she got on the plane” and that strange behavior from the woman began before boarding in London.

The Boston Globe identified the two men who subdued the woman as an unidentified corrections officer and a federal air marshal in training.

Even if the pilots were federal flight deck officers trained to carry guns, no weapons were aboard the plane because there is no agreement in place with United Kingdom officials to allow those officers to carry the weapons on international flights.

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