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Baseless fears force diversion of flight
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09:32, July 13, 2007

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A flight from Los Angeles to London was diverted to New York early yesterday because of what officials said might have been unfounded fears of a security breach.

A flight attendant on the American Airlines plane became concerned that a passenger might not have gone through proper security screening before boarding the Heathrow Airport-bound flight at Los Angeles International Airport, said airline spokeswoman Sonja Whitemon.

The flight attendant had seen the male passenger ride to the terminal on an employee bus and bypass security, as employees are able to do, Whitemon said.

After talking to the passenger, flight crew members decided they needed to divert the plane to New York's Kennedy Airport to search the cabin and re-screen the 230 passengers, in keeping with standard security procedures, she said.

Authorities were questioning the passenger yesterday morning at JFK, officials said.

The scare came on the heels of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's comment earlier this week that he had a "gut feeling" the United States faced a heightened risk of attack this summer.

Chertoff told CNN yesterday that the airplane incident may have been a miscue.

"The individual in question was, in fact, an employee who was traveling in a private capacity," Chertoff told CNN, saying he had gotten information from airline representatives. "It may very well turn out that this is nothing more than a misunderstanding with an employee."

Source: China Daily/agencies

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