Police storm commuter plane on MIA runway
MIAMI (WSVN) -- Heavily armed police officers stormed a plane on a South Florida runway and took three people into custody after a suspicious package that did not make it on board raised concerns in Tallahassee.
TSA officials said American Airlines Flight 3491 landed safely at Miami International Airport around 9 a.m. Saturday and was then taken to a secure area where passengers were met by police. "It was intense," said Anna Velazquez about her ordeal.
Velazquez, who was traveling with 18 family members, was one of 40 passengers on the commuter flight who talked about the unusual circumstances that greeted their arrival at MIA.
Instead of heading to the gate, passengers were directed to the penalty box, a secure area at the airport, where they were met by authorities. "They took us to an area where we saw walls," said Velazquez.
Martin Sandel said he knew something just wasn't right after wheels touched down at MIA. "Thirty or I don't know how many armed guards in black jackets and AK-47s surrounding the plane, boarding the plane, coming to tell everyone to put their hands on their head," he said.
Word of a possible suspicious package on board spread through the cabin of the small jet. "We asked the stewardess what was happening, and she said she thought there might be a device on our plane," said Velazquez.
Sandel feared the worst. "What's going through my head is, 'Is there a bomb on this plane?'" he said.
Velazquez said the sight of so many armed men in uniform was unsettling at first. "We saw, like, a dozen police cars, guys getting out with big military guns, and I just prayed," she said.
Still in their seats, passengers waited while authorities examined the aircraft. Sandel said their weapons were too close for comfort. "One gentleman was aiming his AK-47 down the aisle right in front of me," he said.
According to passengers, three people taken off the flight in handcuffs, and their baggage was searched by police dogs. "They put us up against the wall," said Sandel.
Officers gave the all clear about an hour and a half later. "They just thanked us, and we thanked them," Velazquez said. "We're glad to have them in a situation like that."
Officials said a checked bag alarmed during screening at the Tallahassee Airport Saturday morning, which didn't make the flight, caused the big concern on the tarmac at MIA.
The contents of the package that never made it to Miami are still unknown.
It is unclear whether authorities will file charges against the owner.
Tallahassee Police are investigating.
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