Korean Air plane diverted to Comox airport for emergency landing
A Korean Air plane en route to Seoul, South Korea from Vancouver made an emergency landing late Tuesday afternoon at the Comox Valley Airport following a reported bomb threat.
Around 5:30 p.m., flight KE72, which departed from Vancouver International Airport at 2:35 p.m., was intercepted by two United States Air Force F-15's, operating as part of NORAD - North American Aerospace Defense Command - confirmed Lt. Trevor Reid, public affairs officer at 19 Wing Comox.
Korean Air said a U.S. call centre received the threat about 25 minutes after the flight left Vancouver.
The aircraft, which sat approximately one kilometre south of the Search and Rescue hangar, was immediately surrounded by emergency personnel, including a bomb disposal unit.
A reported 149 people were on board the flight, and were being escorted off the plane Tuesday evening. The flight was headed by Canadian pilot Stow Andrew Chisholm.
"Wing emergency personnel have responded to the location and secured the aircraft in accordance with standard procedures," said Reid in a press release. "Emergency services on (19 Wing) were activated. Passengers have been disembarked from the aircraft and are being screened in a safe location."
He added 19 Wing's priority remains with the safety of the passengers and support to the RCMP, who are the lead agency for response to this situation.
Tuesday morning, Penny Pfaelzer, spokesperson for Korean Air said a security inspection for passengers and crew members has been completed, and passengers were moved to two different hotels in the Valley overnight.
Vancouver residents Edward Kao and his wife Nora said they were on their way for an overnight stay in Seoul prior to continuing to catching a cruise in Sydney, Australia.
Edward noted when alerted to the situation on board, passengers remained calm.
"We sat on the runway for hours while the plane was looked over and searched," he explained. "Everyone was quite calm. After some time, we got off the plane with our bags, and we were screened by security. All of the staff and crew did a good job."
Nora said by the time all of the passengers and crew cleared security at the base, they arrived at the Best Western Westerly Hotel around 1 a.m. Tuesday.
"Everyone was really nice and they gave us a place to stay and fed us," she noted, and added they are still waiting for an update from Korea Air as to when they might be able to fly out of Comox.
Pfaelzer said as of 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, the airline has yet to determine when passengers can fly back to either Vancouver or continue to Seoul.
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