U.S customs officials at Pearson International Airport found a mock explosive inside a suitcase Thursday morning, prompting officials to hold a planeload of Chicago-bound passengers for five hours while they investigated.
The fake improvised explosive device (IED), or makeshift bomb, was discovered during a preclearance inspection of a traveller’s suitcase, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told the Star in a statement Thursday.
“CBP officers immediately notified Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), who swabbed the mock IED for explosives with a negative result,” the statement read.
“For the safety of travellers within the pre-clearance facility, CBP stopped all traveller processing while the mock IED was tested.”
United Airlines flight 547 was scheduled to leave for Chicago O’Hare International Airport at 7 a.m. Customs officials halted the flight, with Peel police saying there was a “possible security breach” involved.
“We were told that a passenger boarded our flight from a (Sao Paulo, Brazil) flight, and their checked baggage was not cleared, so the entire flight is now tainted,” Joe Sturonas, a passenger on the flight, told the Star.
Dal Gemmell, another passenger on board, said there hadn’t been any sort of disturbance on the plane before it was stopped, and that everyone was fine. Passengers were told that American authorities “revoked” their privileges to enter the U.S., he said.
Gemmell said passengers were initially told RCMP dogs would be brought on board to search the plane but that didn’t appear to have happened.
Instead, passengers exited through the rear of the plane and were bussed to an isolation area, where they were re-screened. U.S customs officials also inspected the aircraft, a statement said.
The flight was cleared to leave at noon, about five hours after it was supposed to depart. However, Sturonas and Gemmell said they were still being held as of 12:45 p.m.
Peel police said the situation didn’t present any risk to public safety or impact other processes at the airport. All operations at Pearson are now back to normal, a U.S. customs spokesperson said.