Bomb scare aboard plane caused by harmless prayer box

Friday, January 22, 2010

A US Airways Express plane on the tarmac. (Circa 2007)

A US Airways Express plane en route from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Louisville was diverted to Philadelphia on Thursday morning after a harmless Jewish prayer box was mistaken for an explosive device.

According to Philadelphia police, a 17-year-old Orthodox Jewish boy on Flight 3079 was using tefillin, a set of black boxes attached to leather straps containing biblical passages. When used in morning prayers, one box is strapped to the left arm while the other is placed on the forehead. "It's something that the average person is not going to see very often, if ever," FBI spokesman J.J. Klaver told the Associated Press.

When questioned about the object by crew members, the teen tried to explain the ritual. However, the plane's captain still thought it best to land in Philadelphia as a precaution. Once it landed, the plane was searched, passengers were questioned, and the tefillin was examined by the bomb squad and proven to be harmless.

"The boy, who is from White Plains, and was traveling with his 16-year-old sister, was very cooperative," Philadelphia police Lieutenant Frank Vanore told local media. He went on to say, if anything, the two teens were "more alarmed than we were."

Authorities said that because the whole incident was just a misunderstanding and neither of the teens had a criminal record, they both have since been released and cleared to continue their travels.