Fears of Terrorist, Explosive Device Ground Delta Flight

PHOTO: A Delta flight headed to Madrid returned to JFK after takeoff Thursday, July 12, 2012, after suspicious wires were noticed on board by Federal Air Marshals.PlayWABC
WATCH Suspicious Wiring Prompts Plane Worries

Passengers aboard the Madrid-bound Delta jet that was turned back over fears of an explosive device on board were told by the pilot that the plane had mechanical issues, while there was actually concern that a bomb was aboard and a woman on the flight was part of a terror team.

A little over an hour into Delta flight 126, which took off from New York's JFK airport, the pilot requested assistance from air traffic control after a possible explosive device was found. The suspicious device consisted of two pieces of a drinking straw about an-inch-and-a-half long, with wires running through each.

As the same time the device was found in the plane's rear lavatory, a female passenger began acting suspiciously.

"We think she's the one that is supposed to be the decoy, that keeps looking at the gentleman that was playing with the possible explosive device in the lavatory," the pilot radioed to air traffic control. "So if she gets off the aircraft by a medic, she has to be escorted by police. But we're going to want paramedics to take her off."

Once the flight returned to JFK, a SWAT team and a bomb squad entered the plane after 206 passengers and 10 crew members were evacuated safely. No bomb was found aboard the plane.

"Within half an hour of our heading back, [the pilot] actually 'fessed up, and told us there was a security issue," passenger Dayna Krutz told ABC News.

Authorities involved in the investigation said that they still have not determined why the straws and wires were placed in the lavatory.

As the SWAT team and bomb squad searched the plane, the woman who appeared to have taken ill aboard the flight was held for a time in an ambulance guarded by police.

Authorities involved in the investigation said that while they still had not determined why the straws and wires were placed in the lavatory, it did not appear to even rise to the level of a hoax device made to look like a bomb with no explosive present.

Between the pilot's call and the fact that the wires were spotted by a member of an armed contingent of federal air marshals aboard the flight, authorities treated the incident as a potentially serious threat.

As the investigation continued passengers and crew were being interviewed by authorities -- but, officials stressed, there was "no one in custody, and there is no determination a crime was committed."

A law enforcement source told ABC News that after the suspicious items were found, "as precaution, the aircraft returned to JFK and passengers offloaded."

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Early Friday, Delta released a statement regarding the incident.

"Out of an abundance of caution, Flight 126 JFK to Madrid with 206 passengers returned to JFK approximately an hour after departure due to security concerns. The flight landed safely and was met by local law enforcement," the airline said.

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