AUSTIN (KXAN) - Federal officials investigated a bomb threat at the AustinBergstrom International Airport after a threatening note was foundin the bathroom of an American Airlines jet.
The plane was cleared, the passengers questioned, and the craftwas ready for take-off around 5 p.m., four hours after the threatwas reported. The plane finally started to taxi to the runway at 6p.m.
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Flight 2486 from Austin to Chicago still was on the ground,waiting to taxi down the runway, when a threat to the planewas reported just after 1 p.m. The aircraft never took off. Theairport was not evacuated, and other flights are taking off andlanding as usual.
The bomb threat, a note in the bathroom of the plane, was foundby a passenger, who reported it to the flight crew. The flightattendant notified the pilot, who informed the tower.
Instead of taking off, the plane was emptied and moved to anunpopulated area of the tarmac near the empty South Terminal whilebaggage was removed and bomb-sniffing dogs checked the plane. Noevidence of any type of bomb was found in luggage or on board, saidfederal officials.
At this hour, passengers from the plane have been taken to anoff-site location away from the airport, where each of the 129passengers will be questioned individually by the FBI.
"We take every single incident as seriously as the next," TSAspokeswoman Andrea McCauley said of its handling of this, or any,flight threat. "We are expected to apply our full force ofresources to each and every incident as a part of our due diligencein the situation."
The plane is still being processed as a crime scene. It has beenturned over to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which will pursueany potential criminal or civil charges in the case. If the FBI candetermine who left the note, law enforcement could pursue civil andcriminal penalties.
If and when the plane is cleared, the passengers will re-boardand take off for Chicago.
McCauley reminds travelers that a threat -- in the form of anote on a plane or even a casual joke at a checkpoint -- is treatedwith the same level of seriousness by TSA. TSA is not a lawenforcement agency, but even a comment that could be construed as apotential threat made to TSA staff at a checkpoint could lead to acivil penalty up to $10,000, McCauley said.
"It's important to remind passengers who think it's a joke tomake a comment at a checkpoint that it's a very serious violation.A passenger might make a comment and not realize that once thecomment is made, it's considered a legitimate threat," McCauleysaid. "That's not the kind of situation anyone would enjoy duringthe holidays."
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